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     Volume 2 Issue 5 | March 3, 2007 |


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Journey through Bangldesh

From Sylhet
Greenery at Srimongol

Zahidul Naim Zakaria

The journey was a kaleidoscopic arrangement of eye-candy. I was lost admiring the uncountable shades of green and teal on both sides of the road. As the roaring bus traveled through the miles, I was busy keeping up with the dynamically changing scenery outside my window. The flowers ranged from lilies to wild flowers, and the fields changed from tea gardens to forestry. At some points the surface was level and at some points there were hills with completely random formations that passed away behind me before I could make out their shapes. I was on the way to Lawachara National Park at the east of Srimongol town.

The park covers an area of almost eight sq. kilometers and is situated under the Kalamganj Upazilla. A main road stretches throughout the forest, and quite a number of secondary narrower roads lead to the woods on both sides. All the secondary roads lead to the heart of the park, where there are tea-stalls serving the locally brewed tea.

At the heart of the park, six or seven massive tree-trunks are piled randomly on top of one another. After all, trees side by side don't grow the same length or girth and don't skew at the same angle! The diversity of the species of trees was hard to fathom. I was told that the forest was home to over a hundred and fifty different species of plants and trees where over two hundred species of birds nest. The sights were simply breathtaking. Just behind the tea stalls, I spotted a cluster of bamboos that seemed to boastfully expose their unique brand of green and I was momentarily numbed by the vividness of their color. Some of the bamboos had been cut, and most of them were still in place, but together they created a feast for the eyes of nature lovers.

Just beside the central clearing, a train track etches out like a uniform metallic artery in the middle of the forest, as if a giant cat had once scratched its surface. Trees on both sides of the track create such an enamoring atmosphere. Amongst the many places where I have lost myself in nature, this was truly one of the places that helped me connect with my inner self in perfect synergy. My bliss in solitude was immense.

There were not a lot of people around, other than only a few other tourists like me who were admiring the beautiful formations of plant life all around. From a signpost I learned that three types of monkeys were prominent in the area. Amongst them the most prominent was the gibbon (ulluk), but unfortunately I wasn't lucky enough to see one.

On my way back through the sweet country roads, as I was slowly waking up from the nature-induced daze, I learned of a revolution that had resurrected both the forest and the people here. Local woodcutters and twig collectors who used to steal wood and use other forest resources illegally were rounded up by a non-government effort under the Nisharga Programme financed by the USAID. Instead of restricting them access to the forest, they were trained.

They were put in the centerpiece of the plan to protect the forest. They were taught about basic forestry management and they became rangers. They protect the area now; instead of stealing from the forest, they survive in a sustainable environment that has been realized through their own hands.


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