The forest department’s ridiculous management is responsible for the Sundarbans blazing

The Sundarbans is burning for 9 times in last 5 years
Speakers on the discussion of World Forest Day 2010
To observe the World Forest Day 2010, Sundarbans Watch Group organized a discussion meeting on Conserving Forest: Conserving Civilization. The meeting was chaired by Sazzadur Rahim Pantha and conducted by its SWG member secretary Hasan Mehedi. 32 participants including journalist, development worker, social and cultural activist, teacher, lawyer and physicians were present in the meeting.
The meeting participants urge the government to take necessary measures to conserve the Sundarbans from subversive activities of the plunders, traders, musclemen and dishonest forest officials. The Sundarbans is the largest single tract mangrove forest in the world. It is not only our but also the civilization’s resource, they said. It is our ethical responsibility to save it.
The participants are informed that the Sundarbans is now burning in the Chandpai range, Bagerhat of the Sundarbans East Division. It is ridiculous that the forest is burning every year due to lack of proper supervision of the Forest Department.  This is ninth times in last five years, fire spread out in the Sundarbans.
The fire was spread out yesterday (20 March 2010) and local forest guards were trying to dismantled the flames. The participants are informed that more than a hundred forest department workers, fire fighters and local people battled through Sunday to douse a forest fire in the Sundarbans. Now the fire had spread across about five acres of forest.
The fire originated at Payshatti Chhila in Gulishakhali camp under Chandpai Range situated in the eastern part of the Sudarbans. There are a plenty of flora resources including Sundari, Possur, Bain, bushes and creepers are available in this forest-area. All of the species of at least five acres forest has already been burned because this area is drier than the other in February-April season.
The fire fighters managed to keep the fire contained by digging deep ditches around the fire-hit area but they could not stop fire till evening. The forest department decided to suspend the fire fighting for the night at around 8:30pm, for fear of wild animal attacks.
The forest officer could not say how long it might take to fully quench the fire. He also said the forest department could not yet discover the cause of the fire. “Fallen leaves were lying about six to nine inches thick on the forest floor at this time of year. Flammable methane gas is produced when those leaves decomposed. This area (Payshatti Chhila) is very dry from February to April every year. Therefore, there is always a possibility of fire”, the forest officials said to the press.
But the participants of the meeting conclude that three major causes may be responsible for this burning: (a) Illegal plunders extract timber trees from an area without consideration of sustainability. After collection, they make fire in the forest on the basis of negotiation with dishonest forest officers so that none can proof the actual amount of trees in the certain area; (b) Moual (honey collectors) community members left their traditional Garhu (fired bunch of leaves for smoke) blazing after collecting honey. It sets fire to dry leaves; and (3) Patrol guards of forest department and the fishermen cook their rice in forest using dry branches and leaves and left if without extinguishing. It causes fire.
The participants express their concern as fires have broken out at least nine times at different places of the east division of the Sundarbans, consisting of Chandpai and Sharankhola ranges, since 2004. The speakers in the meeting urge to the government for taking several measures including:
(a) Establishment of Fire Stations in each Range of the Sundarbans with speedy vessel; 
(b) Enforcing laws strictly to protect the plunders from extracting valuable resources of the Sundarbans;
(c) Ensuring transparency towards responsibility and accountability of the Forest Department; 
(d) Providing modern tools to the Mouals for collecting honey from the Sundarbans; and 
(e) Enhancing capacity of forest department through vehicle, instrument, arms and cash incentive.
Among others, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA) divisional coordinator Mahfuzur Rahman Mukul, Alliance for Justice director Al Masum Khan and NEEDS Bangladesh executive director Habibur Rahman Kabir addressed the meeting.

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