Moulvibazar, Sept 9 (UNB) – The wildlife of Lawachhara National Park, a major park in Kamalganj upazila, is declining fast due to acute food crisis and habitat problem.
The wild animals are coming out of the park and entering localities in search of food. Once out, they are either getting killed by local people or being crushed under the wheels of motorised vehicles in most cases as there are railways and roads inside the forest area.
When a big-size python entered a locality in the last week of August, local people attempted to kill it. However, ‘Wildlife Service Foundation (WSF), a private organisation which works on wildlife, rescued the snake.
Although the python was taken back unhurt, the wild animals, in most cases, lose their lives, causing fall in their populations.
The Lawachhara Park, covering approximately 1,250 hectares of land, was declared a national park by the government on July 7,1996 under the Wildlife Act, 1974. Its biodiversity consists of 460 species, of which 167 species are plants, four amphibian species, six reptile species, 246 bird species, 20 mammal species, and 17 insect species.
Sources at the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Department of the Forest Department said around 50 wild animals were recovered from the forest and its adjoining areas in the last eight months. Among them, seven were found dead. In 2017, a total 16 wild animals were found dead among 187 recovered animals.
The highest number of animals -- 47 -- was killed in the forest in 2016 among 230 recovered ones.
However, WSF claimed that at least 20 wild animals were found dead in the last six months in the forest and its adjoining areas. Among them were barking deer, pythons, snakes and monkeys.
Besides, it rescued 40 injured wild animals from the locality. Among the rescued ones, some were released in the forest and 12 are still undergoing treatment.
Wildlife researcher Tania Khan said deforestation is the main reason behind the food and habitat crises of the wild animals. People are destroying forests for making their own houses and cutting down trees for firewood for which wild animals are losing their abode.
Awareness needs to be created among people with a message that they should save the wildlife for their own survival. “People kill the animals for lack of awareness,” she said.
After announcing it a reserve forest in 1996, around 30 percent of trees were chopped down. Besides, huge trees were uprooted during storms. The number of trees is declining for lack of effective steps to stop smuggling and lack of initiative for necessary afforestation, said officials at different NGOs working on Lawachhara.
Admitting the problems, Sylhet divisional forest officer Abu Musa Samsul Muhit Chowdhury said wild animals are being killed when they enter the locality in search of food.
To solve the crisis, he said, big trees will be conserved along with planting fruit-bearing trees.
Musa said a rescue centre for wild animals was established in the park which was later shut for manpower crisis. “It’ll be reopened soon.”
For the safety of the animals, it is necessary to think about alternative to rail tracks and roads that passed through forest.
Joly Paul, convener of Lawchara Forest and Wildlife Life Protection Movement, said the rail tracks and roads through the forest are nothing but ‘death traps’ for the wild animals.
“We’ve long been demanding to relocate the train lines and roads. Without their relocation, it’s not possible to save the animals,” she said adding that if the rescue centre could be reopened, the number of deaths of wild animals will come down.
Dhaka, Sept 9 (UNB) – Most hills across the country are facing serious destruction due to human interventions like random earth cutting, tree chopping and unplanned construction of structures and for lack of an effective plan to protect those, expert said.
Talking to UNB noted environment expert and executive director of Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies Dr Atiq Rahman, Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) Chairman Abu Naser Khan and Prof M Shahidul Islam of Dhaka University’s Geography and Environment department said massive afforestation with indigenous plants, strong monitoring on hill resources and formation of a comprehensive hill management policy and proper action plan are urgently needed to protect the hills.
They also warned that the hills may face serious consequences in the future if 'effective steps’ are not taken to check their ruination and ensure proper use of their lands and resources.
Contacted, Environment and Forest Minister Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud said it is essential to strengthen the monitoring system to stop hill cutting and tree felling. “We can’t do it properly for lack of manpower. There’s been no recruitment over the last six years to increase manpower and ensure strong monitoring in hills.”
He, however, said the government is going to take steps for increasing manpower to look after the hills and their resources.
Dr Atiq Rahman said the stability of the country’s hills is very poor as most of them are created with soil, not with rock. “The hills are getting destroyed due to mindless deforestation and earth cutting for lack of monitoring and effective action plan to protect those.”
The environment expert said massive afforestation is necessary to stabilize hill slopes and thus prevent possible landslides in the hilly region. “An innovative project should be taken to construct roads and establishments on the hills in a planned way, and protect the eco-system and biodiversity of the hills.”
He also warned that if the government does not come up with proper plans and action programmes to protect the hills, the nation will have to pay a heavy price in the near future.
Abu Naser Khan said most of the country’s hills are in very bad condition due to rampant hill cutting, tree chopping, unplanned use of hill and its resources and lack of channels for rainwater to drain out.
He said the government needs to make a national hill management policy to protect the hills and check landslides, “It’ll have to ensure that natural forests on hills are not destroyed in any way.”
The Poba chairman voiced deep concern as huge forestlands are getting destroyed in Cox’s Bazar due to cut down trees by Rohingyas for using firewood to cook.
Khan said the government should take immediate steps to give the Rohingyas alternative sources of fuel for cooking to save the hill forest and ecology.
Prof Shahidul Islam said long-term action programmes should be taken with a strong political commitment by identifying risky hills to address the manmade causes for hill ruination and landslides. “It’s very crucial to set up a ‘Hill Management’ body to protect the hills from devastation.”
The DU professor also suggested formation of a comprehensive hill land use policy to avert unplanned infrastructure and development works in the hilly districts.
Talking to UNB, Director General of Department of Environment (DoE) Dr Sultan Ahmed said they have formulated 13 recommendations to protect the hills and prevent landsides. “We’ve sent those recommendations to all the divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners concerned to take necessary steps for implementation.”
The recommendations include strictly enforcing the Bangladesh Environment Protection Act to protect and preserve the hills, taking afforestation drive in hills, introducing sustainable agriculture system there and, taking steps for preserving water, formulating a long-term action plan for the use of hill areas and implementing it properly, working out a sustainable hill management system through conducting research, taking effective steps for stopping indiscriminate tree felling and creating suitable hill forest.
They also recommended constructing roads in the hills in a planned way, stopping burning of shrubs and bushes on the forest floors, setting up cement blocks on hill slopes or planting grass, stop construction of risky houses on the slopes leveling top of and cutting hills, ensuring proper drainage system of existing roads and establishments on the hills and stopping the supply of utility services to discourage setting up of houses on the hill slopes.
Dhaka, Sept 8 (UNB) – Bangladesh can attract the huge global tourists, mainly from China, visiting countries like India and Myanmar by offering its beautiful places to them as an extended destination of their visits, say industry insiders.
China is giving much importance to cross-border tourism under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
India is also promoting its Buddhist Circuit to attract tourists from China as China provides the biggest outbound visitors in the world with 144 million a year, officials said.
On the other hand, Chinese people have been the second biggest tourist players in Myanmar in its popular tourist destinations like Yangon and Mandalay; religious sites in Mon State, Pindaya, Bago and Hpa-An; ancient cities such as Bagan and Mrauk-U; and as well as beaches in Nabule Ngapal.
“We’ve huge potentials to attract the tourists who are visiting India and Myanmar making Bangladesh an extended destination for them,” Taufiq Rahman, director of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) told UNB.
He said both the government and private sector have a role in making it happens so that Bangladesh’s tourism sector grows further.
Talking about government’s role, he said easing visa on arrival, immigration, customs issues and visa on arrival through sea and land ports can help encourage foreign tourists to take Bangladesh as an extended destination.
Taufiq Rahman said the private sector players need to have broader engagements with tour operators in India and Myanmar that will help make Bangladesh an extended destination for tourists.
He said a new opportunity has opened in the tourism sector through ocean cruise tourists to which Bangladesh needs to give a serious attention.
During Chinese President’s Bangladesh visit, two countries agreed to expand exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, tourism and other fields, and promote interactions among the media, think tanks, youths, women organisations, non-governmental groups and local authorities of the two countries, officials said.
Bangladesh also sees potential in tourism sector through intra-Bimstec tourism cooperation.
An official at the Foreign Ministry here said the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) Member States in the recently held 4th Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal agreed to take concrete steps to promote intra-Bimstec tourism.
Officials said the Member States will task the relevant authorities to devise strategies considering the emerging opportunities and building on the past initiatives, including the ‘Plan of Action for Tourism Development and Promotion for the Bimstec Region’ adopted and reinforced earlier.
The Member States agreed to take concrete measures to facilitate tourism by ensuring safety and security of tourists, and smooth transport connectivity.
They reaffirmed their commitment to developing and promoting Buddhist Tourist Circuit, Temple Tourist Circuit, ancient cities trail, eco-tourism and medical tourism; and welcome the offer of Nepal to host a Bimstec tourism conclave in Nepal in 2020, coinciding with the Visit Nepal Year 2020, according to the joint declaration of Bimstec Summit.
It is estimated that there are nearly 500 million Buddhists all over the World and majority of them live in East Asia, South East Asia and Far East countries, according to Indian Tourism Ministry.
Officials at the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry said the government focuses sustainable development of tourism in the country and stressed the importance of regional cooperation in the development of strategic tourism resources such as Buddhist heritage.
Rangamati, Sept 7 (UNB) –Bumper production of paddy has brought smile to the faces of jhum farmers in the district this year, thanks to the timely rainfall and favourable weather.
During a recent visit to jhum cultivation areas, the UNB correspondent saw that the indigenous jhum farmers were busy harvesting Aus paddy from hill slopes.
Jhum cultivation is common in the district as it is a traditional method of farming on hill slopes. The farmers cultivate paddy, vegetables and other crops following the traditional method. They do not need to plough the topsoil and use any pesticides.
At first, the farmers cut the jungles and burnt those to ashes for preparing the topsoil for cultivation during the Bangla months of Falgun and Chaitra.
During the months of Baishakh and Jaishtha, they made holes on the slopes and sow seeds of paddy, pumpkin, cotton, sesame, maize, vegetables and other crops at the same holes.
Officials at the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) encouraged the jhum farmers to cultivate high-yielding paddy and vegetables on their lands.
Shantimoy Chakma, an agriculture official, said this year, a total of 5090 hectares of land were brought under jhum cultivation and the farmers are overwhelmed with bumper production of paddy and other crops due to favorable weather and timely rainfall.
After the harvest, the farmers here will celebrate ‘Nabanno Utshob’, said DAE deputy director Paban Kumar Chakma.
Fahad Ferdous, UNB Staff Writer
Dhaka, Sept 6 (UNB) – The government has taken a move to increase the license and renewal fees of private medical colleges, hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres of the country aiming to increase revenue collection from this sector.
If implemented this will be first such fees hike in the sector since 1982, according to the Finance Ministry.
Plan is underway to hike annual fees of the private medical colleges from a paltry Tk. 5000 to Tk 2.5 lakh.
The annual license and renewal fees of private hospitals and clinics established in divisional headquarters, city corporations, districts and upazila level is currently Tk 5000. Proposal has been given to make it up to Tk 2 lakh depending on the number of beds.
The annual and renewal fees in divisions and city corporations for 10-50 bed hospital will be Tk 50,000, whereas it will be Tk 40,000 in district level while the fees for upazila-level ones will be Tk 25,000.
The fees for 51-100 bed private hospitals and clinics will be Tk 1 lakh for divisions and city corporation areas, Tk 75,000 at districts, and Tk 50,000 at upazila-level.
For 101-249 bed the fees will be Tk 1.50 lakh in divisions and city corporations, Tk 1 lakh for districts and Tk 75,000 for upazilas.
Private hospitals in divisions and city corporations that have 250 beds will have to pay Tk 2 lakh for annual and renewal fees. The rate for district level is proposed at Tk 1.50 lakh while for the upazila level it will be Tk 1 lakh.
Category-A diagnostic labs that have routine pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, haematology, x-ray, ultra-sonogram, microbiology, immunology, hormone test, radiology, imaging, CT Scan and MRI are now paying Tk 1000 only for license and renewal fees.
These fees will be Tk 50,000, Tk 40,000 and Tk 25,000 in divisions/city corporations, districts and upazilas respectively.
For the Category-B diagnostic labs, the rates will be Tk 35,000, Tk 25,000 and Tk 20,000 respectively.
The rates for the Category-C diagnostic labs will be Tk 25,000, Tk 20,000 and Tk 15,000 respectively.
The medical check-up centres established for checking up the people going to abroad have to pay Tk 1 lakh instead of existing Tk 1000 as fees for setting up and renewals.
For setting up the dental clinics the rates will be Tk 30,000, Tk 25,000 and Tk 20,000 for divisions/city corporations, districts and upazilas respectively.
According to a senior official of the Finance Ministry the government has taken the move to increase the rates after 36 years aiming to improve the revenue collection from this sector.