Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  
Front Page

Predators turn protectors of Lauachhara forest

Even a couple of years ago most men of Dolubari Muslimpara, a village adjacent to Lauachhara forest, used to live by illegal tree felling. But everything has changed as these men themselves have now become the protectors of the forest.

A 20-member team from Dolubari Muslimpara has been working under the Nishorgo Support Project of the Forest Department to guard some areas of the forest, 10km off Srimangal, so that none can fell trees at the protected place.

The project is being financed by the USAID and implemented by International Resource Group.

Interestingly, many of these men had several cases against them for their illegal trade, but those cases have been withheld now.

"We are happy that now we have honest incomes and the police also do not look for us. We can prevent more than 80 percent tree felling as we know well how and when the illegal traders operate," said Ahad Miah, leader of the patrolling team.

The members of the team said they used to fell trees to earn money for their livelihood but the work involved a lot of risk.

"But now we can live with honour and courage. Nobody now calls us thieves," said Aziz, 56, who had been involved with the illegal trade for 30 years.

The members of the patrolling team have sometimes been threatened over telephone for catching illegal traders several times, but none left the patrol team, they said.

"Now I cannot go to Srimangal because of their threats. Some influential people are engaged with this activity," Ahad Miah said.

The decline in illegal tree felling has, however, resulted in increased price of timber recently.

"The price of per cubic feet teak was Tk 500 here in Srimangal a couple of years ago. But now the price has reached Tk 1,800," said a forest officer of the Lauachhara forest beat.

Nishorgo supports each member of the patrolling team with Tk 2,250 per month. It has also trained the villagers to earn through alternative sources including poultry, nursery, weaving, cattle farming, and rickshaw pulling.

Md Abdul Hai of Dolubari Muslimpara has earned Tk 40,000 from his nursery in last one year after receiving training under the Nishorgo project.

"We will not pay them the salary for long. We will eventually make them earn from alternative sources through training and other facilities," said Mehrin M Mahbub, communication specialist of the project.

Shyamal, a resident of Doluchhara Tripura village, said they have come to know through the project that they can earn money out of the forest if they can save it.

"We have engaged the locals in managing and protecting the forest. It proved to be helpful for Lauachhara but the pressure [of illegal tree felling] has shifted to the adjoining parts of the forest," Nishorgo support project chief Dr Philip JD Cosse said.

Nirshorgo has provided income opportunities to 404 people by facilitating training and monetary supports.

Forest officials and locals most of whom used to live by felling trees illegally, now jointly guard the Lauachhara forest in Srimongal, Moulvibazar. PHOTO: STAR