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Rapidly-depleting Patuakhali mangrove forests endangering lives

  • Published at 07:27 am August 17th, 2018
File photo of a canal in the Sundarbans Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Lack of effective conservation efforts is contributing to the crisis

Un-checked tree-felling is rapidly depleting the “Green Wall”—the mangrove forest that protected the people of the coastal district from the devastation of Cyclone Sidr.  Lack of effective conservation efforts is also contributing to the crisis, reports UNB.

When Cyclone Sidr hit the district in 2017, 11.50km of embankment, out of the total 407km in Kalapara upazila, suffered total damage—while 207km was partially damaged. 

The damaged portion contained no forest, according to officials at Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) in the upazila.

On November 15, 2007, Cyclone Sidr struck the south-west coast of Bangladesh, killing around 3,000 people,causing extensive agricultural production losses totaling near US$ 1.1 billion, and affecting 2.3 million households.

Although 11 years have passed since the cyclone struck the district, the authorities concerned have not taken any initiatives to protect the mangrove forest. This leaves the lives of local people exposed to the threats of natural disasters.

The BWDB officials said mangroves are being wiped out as local people source firewood for brick kilns and cooking from them. Some are also building houses and fish enclosures on their lands by felling age-old trees.

During a recent visit to the coastal area of Kalapara, the UNB correspondent found an 8-km area on both sides of Madhukhali Lake, under Mithaganj union, now barren.I It was once filled with many century-old trees.

According to locals, some influential people recently cut down many of the area’s trees for fast profits.

They said the role of the Forest Department is suspicious as they now claim that the forest adjacent to Madhumati Lake does not belong to the department—though, over the last 50 years it had taken action when anyone was found to be involved in tree-felling in the area.

Abdul Jabbar, a resident of Purba-Madhukhali village, said: "I would have lost my houses and other assets to a tidal surge had there been no mangrove forest along the embankment near the lake."

Besides, the embankment stretching from Dhulasar, Kauerchar, Gangamati, and Chapli Bazar to Khajura area may collapse at any time as no mangrove forest remains there.

Abdul Jalil Akon, chairman of Dhulasar union, said the forest adjacent to the embankment has depleted to half its original size over the last 10 years. Abul Kahyer, executive engineer of Kalapara Water Development Board, stressed the need to coordinate efforts to protect the mangrove forest and the embankment.

Tanvir Rahman, UNO of Kalaparaupazila, said actions will be taken in this regard once specific allegations are made.

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