Mindless Felling of Trees


Process of deforestation pushes frontline communities and indigenous people out of their homes violating their human rights, their land rights all the while destroying their way of life

Being a part of the latest trend, thousands of century-old trees are being cut down in a frenzied fashion across the length and breadth of Bangladesh. The concerned authorities are strongly defending their annihilating operations by submitting apparently plausible grounds. It is high time we dug into these pleas and grounds for the greatest interest of the country, people and the environmemt. So far as I know it, in most cases this random felling of our absolutely unavoidable friends are being done more to serve the personal or vested interests than practical necessities. For instance, when it requires to cut down only 10 trees to facilitate an urgent development, the concerned authorities cut one hundred more trees along with the required 10 ones. Similarly, the practical necessiy of chopping off just a single branch is often done at the cost of the whole tree.

The list will be simply a bewildering one if counted together all the articles written on the too-much-talked-of issue of the adverse effects of deforestation and its immediate aftermath of desertification. Here my point at issue is not to harp on the same chord but to focus on a relatively untrodden aspect of the issue. The extra special privileges of immunity and indemnity enjoyed by the influential people. Though this phenomenon is nothing new in our country yet a new dimension of brazen shamelessness on the part of the responsible persons calls for immediate attention. The practice of  saying one thing on the record and performing the other way round, though not, quite a new phenomenon in our country yet severity of misappropriating and embezzling of public properties have reached all-time high.

While plumbing the depth of the motivating cause, one thing  eventually surfaces to the foreground—the endless greed of the people with responsibility. Nothing seems to deter this extremely desperate human greed. We have one thousand year old religious institutions like mosques, temples, churches and pagodas. People in general practise a strictly religious schedule with necessary ceremonies, rites, customs, etc. In line with the religious institutions and ceremonies, there have been solidly-built legal as well as judicial system right in operations for quite a long time. However, all these invaluable disciplining institutions and systems altogether now stand as mere helpless witness in the face of the explosive human greed let alone operating as controlling mechanism of human greed. This is precisely because the overwhelming majority people from each and every social class conspicuously have become morally bankrupt. These institutions have virtually turned into things of cosmetic display of a showcase full of valuable antiques.

Because of the ineffectiveness and ineffectuality of these institutions, people from all walks of life are growingly becoming the stake-holders of this unbridled human greed. To put it otherwise, the infinite power of greed has simply overpowered all positive human norms and values. However, it is more likely that in absence of practising positive norms and values with all earnestness, an environment of total pandemonium has unfolded itself in favour of all-pervasive greed.

A single instance may prove it all. When hundreds of roadside-trees are cut down in the name of facilitating so-called inevitable development or a huge bulk of sundarbans trees are chopped off by influential people overnight or even when clusters of hills are levelled to the ground for the earth to be used in the brick-kilns or for developing an area of low-land just for real estate business, we can easily see how the nexus of collective interests binds together people of all strata of life. When apparently all big-wigs receive the dividents and kickbacks in some way or the other then who will speak against whom.

Do we ever think honestly about the accumulative adverse impacts and chain reactions to be let out by these extremely mindless human activities? Before coming to the answer, I would like to present a comparative study of the global forestation over the last 12,000 years.  From the dawn of the agro-based primitive civilization right  back to date, 46% of the world’s trees have been chopped down according to a report published in the Nature journal. The research says 15.3 billion trees are cut down across the globe every year.

As per Thomas Crowther, the research director, our planet has now 3.04 trillion trees. According to the Wikipedia statistics of 1980, only 16% land of Bangladesh was forested as against the minimum requirement of 25%. Over the intermediary years, the percentage has sqeezed further and now has stood at only 9%. Irrational human greed along with the operations of nature like increasing coastal erosions of the Sundarbans, natural calamities like Sidor, Aila etc. are usually held behind the losses of the staggeringly huge volume of trees over the stated span of time. Forestry in Bangladesh is mainly concentrated in the Sundarbans and Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The regular dynamics of tree felling over the successive years evidently show that both the human and the natural factors have persistently been in operations behind the process of deforestation in Bangladesh. We have little to do with the natural processes but we can to a large extent restrain illegal human invasions on our invaluable flora and bio-diversity providing we inculcate a passionate love for our trees and our pristine landscape. Again, it is the pre-natal human greed that stands in the way of developing our selfless love for our indespensable friends. The facts and figures of our everyday reality speak strongly in favour of our absolute helplessness in the face of the tempting tentacles of seductive greed.

The major impacts of mass deforestation include among others, loss of our rich bio-diversity, loss of Carbon sinks and increased climate change. Relevantly, it is quite important to know that rainforest store a massive amount of carbon. When rainforests are chopped down, the trees of the rainforests release the carbon back into the air. 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the felling of trees. Above all, an absolutely humanitarian issue is clearly concerned with the process of forest destructions. Process of deforestation pushes frontline communities and indigenous people out of their homes violating their human rights, their land rights all while destroying their way of life.

Is there no way out of this rapidly encircling claustrophobia? Yes, of course. Where there is a problem, there is a solution. But time is fast running out for devising ways and means to handle a far too hard nut to crack. Above everything else, intensive co-ordination along with co-operation as well as professional integrity among all concerned government ministries and departments is a first and foremost necessity. Specially, the role and involvement of Ministry of Environment and Forestry must be a pioneering one. The second thing is to take within the uniform fold of co-operation all the related NGOs and other environmental bodies to build up a massive powerhouse of movement.

Finally, the conglomerate of all these institutions and bodies in their turn must involve almost all people living in Bangladesh. With the tripartiate involvement, the ball must roll straight in the court. But the government must take the lead in mobilizing and organizing the involving parties into an effectively operational force. Once the anti-deforestation campaign can be made into a social movement, the related legal and judiciary processes will automatically be effective and the tentacles of the vicious greed will surely be chopped off.

The bottomline is that trees are inseparably intertwined with our existence. If trees are not there on the earth, we will no longer be able to continue our human existence on this planet of ours.




The Independent, 21 October 2017, Bangladesh