Madhupur Tract

Madhupur Tract a large upland area in the central part of Bangladesh. The southern part of this tract is known in Bangla as Bhawal Garh and the northern part as Madhupur Garh. Geologically it is a terrace from one to ten metres above the adjacent floodplains. Though in its present form it is of Pleistocene age its origin may be in the late Miocene, when the bengal basin was being filled in rapidly. The total extent of this Tract is 4,244 sq km. Unlike the barind tract it is largely in one piece, with seven small outliers. The main section stretches from just south of Jamalpur in the north, to Fatullah of Narayanganj, in the south. Most of Dhaka City is on this Tract. Of the seven outliers four are in the east and three in the north. All of them seem to have been separated atleast superficially, by faults. This part of Bangladesh has been uplifted several times, resulting in numerous longitudinal faults. The most prominent of these are along the western side, where they can be clearly seen at Mirpur (Dhaka City) and near Ghatail and Madhupur further north. Long fault traces are also extant on the eastern side. The climate of the Tract varies slightly from north to south, the northern reaches being much cooler in winter. Average temperatures vary from 28'C to 32'C in summer, falling to 20'C in winter, with extreme lows of 10'C. Rainfall ranges between 1,000 mm and 1,500 mm annually. Severe storms are unusual but tornadoes have struck the southern areas.

The soils of the Tract have developed largely on madhupur clays; which are nutrient poor and somewhat acidic. They are red or brown in colour. In most places the changes from the floodplains to the Tract is quite sharp, but in some places the floodplain soils overlie the gently inclining edges. The Madhupur Tract is extensively dissected, with narrow or broad valleys extending deep into the level landscape and the drainage pattern is clearly dendritic. The higher level lands are known as chala and the valleys are called baid. The valleys are cultivated with boro rice in the dry season by impounding the streams for irrigation. At this time the fields are dry in the uplands except where cultivated with sugarcane. Many of chala are well known for their jackfruit gardens. Large quantities of jackfruit are shipped out to other parts of the country from April to June. Some areas in the south, such as Kaliakair and Savar are also known for their production of mango, Bengal Olive, Pomelo and Star Apple. pineapples, mainly Giant Kew variety, are grown extensively in Madhupur thana in the north.

Most of this Tract was used to be covered by forests as recently as fifty years ago and Sal (Shorea robusta) was the dominant species. Due to illegal deforestation only about 600 sq km of forest remains and new woodlands planted. With exotic species such as Akashi (Acacia auriculiformis) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) have transformed the ecosystem in many areas. One effect has been the reduction of bird species and numbers. It has also reduced the extraction of fuel by local villagers. Due to these and other detrimental effects, the Forest Department is considering changing the species composition. Two areas where something of the original forest remains are the Madhupur National Park in the north and the Bhawal National Park in the south. These parks were expected to protect the natural ecosystems. However illegal extraction and poaching of wildlife has seriously reduced their potential. Two centuries ago elephant and rhinoceros have been reported in these forests but became extinct in the late nineteenth century. tigers and leopards were numerous, but tigers dwindled in the early twentieth century and extinct fifty years ago. Leopards are feared to be close to extinction. The Leopard-Cat, Fishing-Cat, Jungle Cat and small Indian Civet are still to be found. The Peacock was at one time quite plentiful but became extinct thirty years ago.

Two tribal people, the Koch and the Mande (garo), who are dependent on these forests, live in the Madhupur Tract. The Koch are among the earliest people of Bangladesh, while the Mande have their main centre of dispersal in the Garo Hills in India. The Bengali-speaking people, who used to live along the fringes of the extensive forests, have entered in large numbers and cleared most of the forests. In the past thirty years the landscape and ecosystems of most of the Tract has changed drastically. Bengalis has developed stable agro-horticultural systems in the west, from Savar to Kaliakair. These areas are still very productive, especially of fruits, but are now threatened by the inexorable expansion of Dhaka City. Urbanisation is a relatively new phenomenon in this Tract. In ancient times the greater part of these uplands seems to have been forested. Only in the south, where the Tract bordered by the buriganga river, did urban centres flourish, as at Savar and Dhaka, both of which may have been founded two thousand years ago.

At present the enormous expansion of Dhaka City is the most conspicuous feature of the Madhupur Tract. The growth of the city has given to numerous small urban areas, which will in time be absorbed into the expanding city. The flood-free uplands have attracted many Government institutions. The earliest was the Manipur Agricultural Farm, which is now an urban area in the centre of Dhaka City. The experimental farms were removed further north to Gazipur, where the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Bangladesh National University, Bangladesh Open University, Bangladesh Citrus Research Institute, Bangabandhu Agricultural University, etc are situated. Further north the Cotton Research Institute has extensive grounds, where seed cotton is produced. The flood free nature of these lands has also attracted industrial growth, and new factories line the road from Dhaka to Mymensingh. Moreover the government has set up an export processing zone at Ashulia in Savar upazila which is continually expanding. Further west important institutions are jahangirnagar university and Bangladesh Pulic Administration Training Centre with extensive campus. Closely is the National Memorial Monument (Jatiya Smriti Soudha).

Madhupur Formation represents highly oxidised reddish brown clay containing ferruginous nodules, manganese spots and pipestem. Madhupur tract is drained by the dhaleshwari, Buriganga, bangshi, banar and shitalakshya of the brahmaputra-jamuna river system. All these rivers flow southeast and discharge into the vast river meghna. Madhupur Tract is afforested with valuable trees, such as, Gazari, Karai and Garjan. [Harun-Er-Rashid]