Protect our hills
One major cause of ecological devastation which often eludes our immediate attention is the reckless cutting of hills. Since most hills are not located in the major cities, their destruction often remains unnoticed. However, decimation of hills has already manifested in grave human tragedy when monsoon triggered hill slides killed people living on the slopes in Chittagong. Specialists recently called for a countrywide forestation programme throughout the country supported by a practical hill management plan.
Coupled with regular loss of lives in the hilly areas - cutting of hills results in serious ecological imbalance - triggering mud slides, decimation of trees and deforestation. Many of the hilly areas of Bangladesh are covered by dense forests, which not only provide essential environmental diversity, but also houses wild species of plants. In the last two decades, countless hills have been ravaged for construction or for wood to be used either as fuel or for other purposes. Consequently, many indigenous wildlife species, including leopard and fish cats, have become almost extinct.
Talking or penning on hill protection is easier said than done since many of our forests and hill areas are occupied by people blessed by local political bosses. The link between environmental degradation and politics is an old one; unless the authority takes a non-compromising stance about preserving nature, plans or strategies will only remain stuck within dust gathering folders. The Department of Environment, DoE, has made 13 recommendations for preservation of forests and hill areas, sending them to all district administrations.
In order to implement these recommendations, illegal occupation of land, forests and hills being destroyed under a political clout must be dealt strictly. And for this to happen, the directive has to come from the highest authority of the country. In recent times, there have been several reports of Rohingyas living in Cox's Bazaar felling large number of trees for firewood. Already, several experts have expressed concern over the pace in which the trees are being felled.
Being practical, cutting of trees near Rohingya camps may be controlled, but not stopped because round the clock monitoring may not be possible. An alternative can be to supply kerosene or wood from trees which have little or no value in sustaining ecological balance. To save hills from being cut down, the government may also think of asking private companies involved in the tourism sector to lease hills to convert them into resorts plus wildlife sanctuaries. Such strategic approach can save hills plus their species while expanding nature based recreational spots with the enticing prospect of profit and employment generation.