Journey Through Bangladesh
Forest and Wildlife Law should not be Enacted Without Proper Census of the People
The law was more of the commercial type that the British rulers had imposed for personal profits and gains. Thusly, the law had never been in the interest of the people of our country. And so, the law needs to be revised keeping in mind that it has to be in favor and interest of the nation in whole.
It has come to pass that the incumbent government is thinking of revising the existing Forest and Wildlife Laws, from World news sources. The Forest Laws were implemented in 1927 under the British rule. The law was more of the commercial type that the British rulers had imposed for personal profits and gains. Thusly, the law had never been in the interest of the people of our country. And so, the law needs to be revised keeping in mind that it has to be in favor and interest of the nation in whole. To achieve such means, discussion with affiliated persons in the field should be made mandatory before any steps are taken in revising the law.
Many countries, including the Filipinos, follow the Law reserve forests cannot be introduced without holding discussions with forest dwellers first or by overlooking their basic rights. Theses countries strictly follow the code of passing new Forest Laws or revising them by first discussing them with the dwellers. Neighboring India introduced the Forest Rights Law in which the rights of the Forest Dwellers have been kept intact. Alas, such laws are yet to be implemented in Bangladesh, while the old British laws concerning Forestry are still being followed. Even though there are very many important laws that are not supposed to be affiliated with the Forest laws, they still hold very strong ground in matters of the laws towards forestry and other sectors. The Bangladesh Government in 1998 enacted the Chittagong Hill tracks Rural Law, which - even though is not directly related to the Forest laws is very important as the whole area is rural and contained in forests with ancient natives occupying the lands. It is mentioned in the enacted law of 1998 of the Chittagon Hill Tracks Rural Law and the Chittagong Hill Tracks Agreement that any new laws to be introduced in the Chittagong Hill Tracks, that are relevant, must be first discussed with the Parbatto Chattogram Ancholic Parishad before being enacted upon. Both the Forest Law and the Wildlife law will be introduced to Chittagong Hill Tracks, as there exists both natural woodlands and reserve forests in the area. As far as I am informed, the government is involved in the revising of the Forest law and implementation of the Wildlife Law without holding a proper census amongst the natives of the area. If the government in lieu of the current situation carries on with implementation and revision of the laws, without a proper census, will act in breach of the 1998 covenant. Given such a scenario where, if, the government itself is ready to act in breach of the law, then why will the people of the nation act otherwise? The government itself has to follow its own set laws, rules and regulations, otherwise it will give up its own right to tell people to follow the law. And that is exactly why the government needs to hold proper discussions with the Parbatto Chattogram Ancholic Parishad on a mandatory basis before changing and implementing the Forest Law and the Wildlife Law. And in related causes, discussions with the Hill Tracks Jela Parishad, involved authorities and the forest dwellers must be held.
The forest dwellers are all mainly ancient natives. Reserve Forests have always been announced from grabbing their lands by the Forestry Division. Thusly they have been living on the grabbed lands as 'servants' to the Forestry Division since. Different countries of Asia are working towards enacting laws to reserve the rights of forest dwellers. Bangladesh needs to do the same as well, and establish rights for the forest dwellers. We have to learn how to protect nature and the woodlands, and no-one knows better how to besides the forest dweller. They are the ones who have culminated the knowledge towards this for thousands of years. They have to protect the forests out of their own interests as well. The ancient natives' lives and their livelihoods are intertwined and inseparable from the forests themselves. No existent forests mean no-existence of their lives or livelihoods. Taking the natives out of the woods would be stopping their lives, destroying their culture, and crippling their economy and society. In the same way, if for any political or natural reasons they are hampered, the occupied lands and forests fall into demise as well. The lands inevitably fall under the grasp of forest and woods pirates without the natives' protection.
The natives look upon their forests and land as their own children. They worship the woods god, water god and the forest god. They don't look upon land as assets to be sold or bought, but rather look upon it as comparable to their mothers. They farm the lands for a living, acquire medicine from plants and weeds, use the bamboo off the lands to make tools to carry water from the waterfalls, to farm different vegetables and spinach, to use as fuel for fires, to make musical instruments for festivities, all which is available because of the forests. Destroy the forests and their lives will be destroyed as well.
What surprises me is the silence observed from the government, the higher authorities, and nature activists when thousands of acres of forests are under plight in the name of spreading the Forestry Division. I cannot say, to this day, that I have once noticed any rallies or any steps taken towards the welfare of the woods or forests by any of the authorities from the Forestry Division. They are, in the name of forestry, still destroying natural wealth by planting only one or two types of trees. Such 'gardens' are being spread all over with foreign trees. Due to such groves comprising of only one type of foreign tree, nature's wildlife cannot find proper shelter in these woods, neither can various insects nor natural plants and weeds of the area, resulting in their demise. Thus the initiatives taken by the Forestry Department has fallen taxing towards nature of our country, and is being hampered seriously. Nature activists should start organizing rallies and protests in this regard. The incumbent government is more than aware of how to protect the environment. If they are for the environment, why then will all the activities destroying and damaging nature not stop in the country?
The activities of the Forestry Division have been conducted always keeping a profit-motive in mind. The British rule passed the law in 1927 with only profit in mind. They never thought of saving the environment, or the medicinal plants, nor the welfare of the people. And that's why they never thought twice of destroying thousands of acres of natural wealth to plant the foreign trees. But why is the government of an independent country still following such oppressive means left by the British rulers? Why is the government going to destroy the natural wealth and environment? Why will they uproot the natives and destroy their lives and livelihoods dependent on the forests? Are not the ancient natives citizens of this country as well? Had they not played a role towards the independence of this country?
The Forestry Division have always evicted forest dwellers from their natural habitats, and have destroyed the natural wealth by planting foreign tree-groves, yet have always claimed they are planting forests. Are forests something to be planted? Experts say that forests are not something to be planted, but rather something that grows naturally. Naturally grown hundreds of types of trees, plants, animals and birds, and insects accumulated in one place are a forest by their definition. But the Forestry Division, by planting only one or two types of trees is calling them plantation of forests. The authority needs to discard their profitable views of the forests, only then will the protection of natural forests be possible in our country. The Prime Minister's involvement has become necessary in stopping the plight of nature and reservation of the natural forests for all times, and new laws guaranteeing their protection is hoped for.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009