The Prime Minister’s instruction to relevant authorities to conduct a digital survey to assess the current state of all forests for encroachment protection measures is a welcome move, especially at a time when forest areas are shrinking for a number. of reasons. The Prime Minister, virtually chairing the weekly cabinet meeting on October 28 where the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change submitted for approval the Attia Forest (Protection) Bill 2021, reportedly ordered the study of all forests. in coordination with the assistant commissioners. The bill is to replace the 1982 ordinance to better protect the forest covering approximately 46,000 acres of land in Dhaka and Tangail. What is further welcome is the Prime Minister’s ordinance providing for early action to review cases the forestry department has brought against people living in and around forests for petty offenses, as prosecutions are pending. been going on for years, putting many people living in the forests in poverty. The cabinet secretary seeks to say that one person faces 40-50 cases and many live in Madhupur Forest in Tangail, Garo Hills in Sherpur, Chattogram Hill Tracts and the Sunderbans continue to suffer because of forest-related cases.
While the prime minister is also ordering campaigns to keep forest dwellers from coming into conflict with the law out of ignorance, which has added to the fears of forest dwellers is that the prime minister ordered the investigation to find out how much of the wooded land is occupied by people living in forests. With the cabinet secretary having said that people living in the forests occupying forest land would be rehabilitated in other places at the end of the investigation in an effort to keep the forests “intact”, this is what borders on sending communities that have lived in forests for centuries in a frightening situation. While the protection of forests remains essential, it is equally important to safeguard the right of forest peoples to the places where they have lived for centuries. In addition, people who have lived in forests do little to damage woodlands because forests are what they feed on. Rehabilitating forest people outside woodlands to keep forests “intact” also seems like an implausible idea because forest people and forests are interdependent. It is therefore important to develop forest protection plans taking foresters into account. Rather, it is individuals living outside forests, public bodies and private entities who have allegedly caused forest damage for ages by cutting down trees for development projects and timber trade, occupying wooded land, creating industrial units and destroying the forest ecosystem. Experts therefore believe that the lives and livelihoods of forest people should be taken into account in any forest protection plan.
The government must therefore develop and implement all forest protection plans, which will be a bit easy with a digital survey to begin with, but it must also allay foresters’ fears about forced displacement and take them into account for a better understanding. better forest management.