Saturday, July 20, 2024

Plunderers now protectors

Stealing of Modhupur forest resources marks significant fall because of positive steps by the authorities
The number of cases filed for stealing resources in Madhupur forest sees a significant fall during the last several months as once forest resource plunderers are now serving as community forest workers, helping protection and development of the traditional sal forest.
The dramatic change appeared as forest department in June-July last year provided 400 people two months’ training under a project styled ‘Re-vegetation of Madhupur Forest through Rehabilitation of Local and Ethnic Communities’.
As many as 368 and 354 cases were filed in 2008 and 2009 for stealing resources in Modhupur forests, said sources of forest department in Tangail.
But only 20 such cases were filed last year while the number of cases filed in first two and a half months this year is three, they said.
Since the independence, around 18000 cases have been filed for stealing of Madhupur forest resources and around 3000 of them are under trial at present.
Once spread over 45,000 acres of land, Madhupur forest has now shrunk to only 8,000 acres, forest department sources said.
To save the traditional forest from gradual extinction, forest department last year made a list of 500 tree plunderers and provided 400 of them two months’ training under the government-run programme aimed at lessening their dependence on the forests.
The participants received trainings on apiculture, mushroom cultivation, nursery, afforestation, fire fighting, poultry, cow fattening, fish farming, vegetable gardening, grass growing, compost fertiliser production, cultivation of medicinal plants, production of jam and jelly etc.
Alongside getting the opportunity of self-employment, the 400 people are serving as community forest workers, participating in forest development activities and assisting the forest guards to protect the forest resources.
They have been provided with identity cards and complete uniforms including boots, belts and caps and get Tk 200 each per week.
Preparations are on to provide similar trainings to some 150 more people, said a forest official.
“I was accused in over 100 forest cases as I had been stealing trees from Madhupur forest since my boyhood. But now I am serving as a community forest worker to protect the forest,” said a middle-aged man of Gachhabari village in Madhupur upazila.
The government has also arranged grants and aids for rehabilitation of 5500 families living inside Madhupur forest. As per plan to make the dwelling houses environment friendly farmhouses, each family has got 100 saplings of firewood trees, 50 saplings of fruit trees and 50 saplings of forest trees.
They have also got grant for cattle raising and cultivation of vegetables and medicinal plants.
Each of the families was also given a modern furnace so that they do not have to use wood as fire.
“Following failure to save the forest and its resources by filing cases for years, we are implementing the project to preserve forests by rehabilitating the forest dependent people and including them in the process to protect forest resources. The government has provided Tk 15 crore from its Climate Trust Fund for the purpose,” said Asit Ranjan Paul, divisional forest officer in Tangail.
Influential forest plunderers, both locals and outsiders, have also grabbed vast areas of forestlands and raised orchards including pineapple and banana plantations and set up makeshift structures there, forest department sources said.
Over 40,000 people living in 57 villages, set up in Madhupur forest areas after 1950, are dependent on the forest resources for livelihood.
Besides, over 100 brickfields made around Madhupur forest in seven upazilas of Tangail and Mymensingh districts are dependent on the firewood from the forest to burn bricks.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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