The greens are back and with it the beings, to the forest.
Exactly a year ago, the terrible Sidr lashed the Sundarbans, leaving it battered and copper red. It looked more like a scene of disaster than a pristine forest. Hardly a tree was left that did not bear the brunt of the 250-km an hour wind.
A year later, that scene is a fading memory, as our photographer Syed Zakir Hossain discovered. Green leaves have sprouted around, the birds are twittering, the deer and hogs and squirrels are quick footing around.
This comeback is amazing and a great deal of tribute goes to the government’s correct decision to let the forest grow on its back without any interference. It ignored the forest department’s mindless and criminally inclined suggestion to cut off 25 percent of trees of the Sundarbans that it thought was a must to save the jungle.
Experts said otherwise–leave the forest alone and let it grow back on its own. That is exactly what has happened a year later.
In addition, the forest was relatively undisturbed during this period. Deer, wild boar, monkey, and birds have thrived in this world heritage forest. A good number of pugmarks in different places of the forest indicate that the famous Bengal tiger population is also thriving.
The forest still bears the marks of Sidr that destroyed 25 percent of it. But the fast pace of regeneration has already brought back the old glory of the Sundarbans. It has also dismissed the opinion of forest department experts who had professed that it would take years to recover the loss.
A four-day visit to the forest last week revealed that the so-called dead trees at Hiron Point, Kotka and Kochikhali areas actually had not died. Most of them, including the ones that appeared to be uprooted, have grown back.
In addition, new trees have sprung up everywhere. These trees are now two to three feet in height.
The big Sundarbans island known as Dublar Char was almost totally denuded of trees. But now trees have emerged all over the island. “The trees on the char have grown back faster than those in the main forest,” says Shamsul Huda, consultant on forest resources of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Consequently the destroyed feeding grounds of wild animals have been restored. This is confirmed by the frequent sighting of wild animals including tigers, deer, monkeys, boars.
However, the damaged forest department infrastructure including residential facilities and jetties in the canals have not been repaired or replaced. Sources said such repairs would not cost much but for unknown reasons the forest department is not repairing them.
Suffering from lack of docking facilities, private tour operators have expressed their interest in financing the repairs but the department does not agree to this.
The story of the forest’s regeneration could have been a tragic one, had the government listened to the forest department’s suggestion of cutting the “affected” trees. Forest department high officials told the press that Sidr had damaged at least one-fourth of the forest, 10 percent severely.
As a number of naturalists and wildlife experts opposed this idea, the government banned the cutting of those trees.
Even after this ban, the forest department–known as one of the most corrupt organs of the government–had marked trees that would soon be cut down and sold in the market. Press reports foiled this bid.
The 600,000-hectare Sundarbans offers more than 400,000 hectares of forest. The remaining area consists of water bodies.
Following the cyclone, officials assessed that more than Tk 1,000 crore worth of forest resources had been lost with an additional Tk 20 crore in infrastructure damage.
The forest department is perceived to be one of the most corrupt departments of the country and it is often accused of damaging forestry and wildlife instead of protecting them. Last year, the chief conservator of the forest Osman Gani was arrested with almost two crore taka cash. This money comes from illegal felling and sale of forest resources.
Categories: Bangla, Bangladesh, Bangladesh Economy, Bangladesh News, Daily Bangladesh News, Economy, News