Hills in peril for lack of effective conservation plan: Experts


Desk Report:

Most hills across the country are facing serious destruction due to human interventions like random earth cutting, tree chopping and unplanned construction of structures and for lack of an effective plan to protect those, expert said.

Talking to UNB noted environment expert and executive director of Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies Dr Atiq Rahman, Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) Chairman Abu Naser Khan and Prof M Shahidul Islam of Dhaka University’s Geography and Environment department said massive afforestation with indigenous plants, strong monitoring on hill resources and formation of a comprehensive hill management policy and proper action plan are urgently needed to protect the hills.

They also warned that the hills may face serious consequences in the future if ‘effective steps’ are not taken to check their ruination and ensure proper use of their lands and resources.

Contacted, Environment and Forest Minister Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud said it is essential to strengthen the monitoring system to stop hill cutting and tree felling. “We can’t do it properly for lack of manpower. There’s been no recruitment over the last six years to increase manpower and ensure strong monitoring in hills.”

He, however, said the government is going to take steps for increasing manpower to look after the hills and their resources.

Dr Atiq Rahman said the stability of the country’s hills is very poor as most of them are created with soil, not with rock. “The hills are getting destroyed due to mindless deforestation and earth cutting for lack of monitoring and effective action plan to protect those.”

The environment expert said massive afforestation is necessary to stabilize hill slopes and thus prevent possible landslides in the hilly region. “An innovative project should be taken to construct roads and establishments on the hills in a planned way, and protect the eco-system and biodiversity of the hills.”

He also warned that if the government does not come up with proper plans and action programmes to protect the hills, the nation will have to pay a heavy price in the near future.

Abu Naser Khan said most of the country’s hills are in very bad condition due to rampant hill cutting, tree chopping, unplanned use of hill and its resources and lack of channels for rainwater to drain out.

He said the government needs to make a national hill management policy to protect the hills and check landslides, “It’ll have to ensure that natural forests on hills are not destroyed in any way.”

The Poba chairman voiced deep concern as huge forestlands are getting destroyed in Cox’s Bazar due to cut down trees by Rohingyas for using firewood to cook.

Khan said the government should take immediate steps to give the Rohingyas alternative sources of fuel for cooking to save the hill forest and ecology.

Prof Shahidul Islam said long-term action programmes should be taken with a strong political commitment by identifying risky hills to address the manmade causes for hill ruination and landslides. “It’s very crucial to set up a ‘Hill Management’ body to protect the hills from devastation.”

The DU professor also suggested formation of a comprehensive hill land use policy to avert unplanned infrastructure and development works in the hilly districts.

Talking to UNB, Director General of Department of Environment (DoE) Dr Sultan Ahmed said they have formulated 13 recommendations to protect the hills and prevent landsides. “We’ve sent those recommendations to all the divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners concerned to take necessary steps for implementation.”

The recommendations include strictly enforcing the Bangladesh Environment Protection Act to protect and preserve the hills, taking afforestation drive in hills, introducing sustainable agriculture system there and, taking steps for preserving water, formulating a long-term action plan for the use of hill areas and implementing it properly, working out a sustainable hill management system through conducting research, taking effective steps for stopping indiscriminate tree felling and creating suitable hill forest.

They also recommended constructing roads in the hills in a planned way, stopping burning of shrubs and bushes on the forest floors, setting up cement blocks on hill slopes or planting grass, stop construction of risky houses on the slopes leveling top of and cutting hills, ensuring proper drainage system of existing roads and establishments on the hills and stopping the supply of utility services to discourage setting up of houses on the hill slopes.unb


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