Illegal lumbering poses threat to Sunderbans

Daily NewAge | December 29, 2015 12:44 am
Tapos Kanti Das
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Stamps of newly cut Kakra trees jut out along Hai Saheber Canal near Kailashganj patrol spot under Nalian range of the Sunderbans west division. The photo was taken on December 22. — courtesy: Md Rabiul Alam
Illegal commercial tree felling by poachers is posing a serious threat to the Sunderbans. Forest experts and the people living close   to the world’s   largest mangrove forest expressed serious concerns over what they called unabated tree felling for commercial purposes with little or no efforts to prevent the illegal timber collection.
During a recent visit to the Sunderbans Khluna University forestry and wood technology teacher Robiul Alam said that he saw timber logs being transported to nearby localities by big boats. On inquiry, he said, he came to  know that indiscriminate cutting of trees takes place mostly at night. Later, he said, the extracted timber logs are shipped to different destinations.
Locals and conservationist said that the illegal deforestation by poachers occurs with support from the corrupt forest personnel. Continuous poaching left patches of deforestation in the protected Sunderbans, they said. They said that in raids, which are rare, bystanders see valuable   Sundari, Garan and Kakra timber logs being seized.
The 6,017-square km Sunderbans covering areas in the three coastal districts of Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat provides the protective shield against cyclones and tidal bores to the coastal population. Forestry teacher Rabiul Alam told New Age that he was on a study tour of select areas in the Sunderbans on December 21 and 22 for his PhD research project. He said that during his visit to  Kailashgonj patrol spot and the nearby forests in the  Sundarbans he found freshly sawn off the bases of Kakra trees, with the stems gone from the spot. Only the branches could be seen lying scattered by the Hai Shaheber canal. He said as he ventured deep into the forest he found more and more freshly sawn off bases of  Kakra trees.
During his overnight halt at the  house of a villager at Kailashganj, while taking a walk after dinner  along the  embankment by the Bhadra River, he saw a big boat quickly unloading timber logs from the Sunderbans, he said. On the following day, he said, forest personnel discouraged him to visit another area in forest on various pretexts. A villager told New Age that he sees the same picture almost every night. But he refused to be quoted for fear of his life.
On December 22, Sarankhola police seized three engine vans loaded with 62 Sundari timber logs from Panchmatha, Sarankhola, Bagerhat and arrested Nayan Hawlader of Dakhkhin Kadamtala and  Sohel Hossain of Rajoir, both the villages  under Sarankhola  upazila. Sarankhola police said both of them were members of a gang poachers. On November 15, police and the forest department officials seized 84 abandoned Kakra timber logs from the Kayra River at Ghughrakathi Bazaar,  Kayra, Khulna.
Not even one per cent of the timbers extracted by the poachers from the Sunderbans are ever seized, said Hasan Mehedi, member secretary of Sunderban Watch Group, a platform of 13 Khulna based civic groups. Seldom raids take place to seize timber logs from the Sunderbans stacked at remote areas under Paikgachha,  Dacope, Kayra , Morelganj,  Sarankhola and Shyamnagar upazilas.
Stern action would be taken against anyone found felling  trees, said conservator of forest Zahir Uddin Ahmed. Asked about what the KU teacher saw recently, the rangers said the matter was under investigation following his lead.

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