AKM Zahoorul Huq
Unabated hill cutting and destruction of forest resources because of shifting cultivation have posed serious threat to ecology in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) that accounts for one-tenth of Bangladesh’s land territory.
Experts and officials of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) came up with the view despite there has been hardly any alternative to the shifting cultivation (jhum cultivation) being exercised by the hilly residents.
They said burning of forest resources on thousands of acres of land jhum cultivation and cutting of hills for creating more human habitation have been blamed for the environmental degradation in three hill districts – Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban.
The hill cutting is officially banned. But the sections who collect boulders have been defying the ban with absolute impunity on the very nose of the law enforcement agencies. The local administration is also aware of it.
Haroon-or-Rashid, additional director of DAE, said that forest resources on over 20,000 hectares of land under the districts were burnt down for shifting cultivation during the current season. This process is also posing a threat to the biodiversity and causing habitat loss of most wild animals, he added.
In addition, the forest bandits have been plundering the forest resources in association with a section of corrupt forest officials.
Sources pointed that a large number of people of lower income bracket have built houses at the slopes by cutting hills to live in danger.
Fazleh Elahi, Executive Director of Global Village, a non-governmental organization working in the CHT, said that the impact of the current hot spell was being felt more severely in the hill districts than in the plain land because of the manmade factors.
The people of the region have to pay very dearly if the practice of hill cutting in the CHT went unabated, he said urging the authorities concerned to do the needful before it is too late.