Bangladesh's afforestation policy endangers wildlife: Experts

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Dhaka, Jan 19 (UNI) Rare wildlife species in Bangladesh were being endangered by the present afforestation policy of the country which was unsuitable for its ecological balance and biodiversity and needed to be reviewed, experts said.

''Bangladesh is implementing a British afforestation policy of 1873. In the name of afforestation, we're actually doing plantation.

Our own natural forests are being destroyed while foreign trees are being planted across the country,'' Prof Kazi Zaker Husain, head of The Wildlife Society of Bangladesh, told UNB yesterday.

The plantation of the exotic trees imported from foreign countries have endangered rare species of wildlife, including Hoolock Gibbon (known as Ulluk in Bangladesh), wild elephant, deer, and various types of wild cats, Prof Husain said.

''By planting these you can increase the number of trees, but cannot protect the environment and biodiversity,'' Prof Husain said.

The animals are directly or indirectly dependent on trees for their survival. The trees and animals have been living through co-evolution in a particular place for thousands of hundreds of years. ''If you cut down such trees now, then what will happen to the animals? The foreign trees are completely unknown to them,'' Prof Husain said.

According to Prof Husain, Bangladesh is creating mono-culture forests where only one type of tree is being planted in a vast tract of land which is destructive for the wild animals.

''In a natural forest, many kinds of trees are available on which various species of animals find food and environment to live on. But in a mono-culture forest, only one type of tree is available, that's why animals find it difficult to live on the same trees for scarcity of food and ecological support,'' added Prof Husain.

Elephants, for example, need banana trees and bamboo saplings as their food. ''But in Bangladesh, to recover the lost or destroyed natural forests, we usually plant one type of tree and we do not allow any small trees like bamboo or banana trees over the area.

Thus we get some trees in a particular area. But at the same time we destroy the food stock of the animals,'' he said.

Bangladesh should stop the mono-culture afforestation programme immediately as it needs afforestation on the lands where natural forests have been destroyed. ''Those lands only require protection for the natural growth of local trees,'' Prof Husain said.

Prof Anwarul Islam, chief executive of Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB), said ten per cent of the country's total land can be declared as protected areas where local trees will grow naturally.

Taking in account the economic interest of the people and the country, another section of land can be allocated as buffer zone where some fast-growing exotic species of trees could be planted.

But the exotic trees will have to be eco-friendly, said Prof Anwarul.

''For timber and firewood, we can make some buffer zones. Exotic trees can be planted in the buffer zones. But the trees will have to be selected through deep research,'' he added.

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