Protected by trees

Moazzem Hossain
We need to save trees to save ourselves

Three global studies have been at the forefront in recent years to make the case that global warming induced climate change would bring coastal areas under extreme conditions.

First, The Fifth Assessment Report (2013), of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicts that the global average temperature will rise between 0.64 degrees Celsius and 1C by 2100 and would hit the coastal areas hard with extreme weather conditions.

Second, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identified 20 large port cities of the world which, in terms of population, would be the most exposed to coastal flooding by the 2070s.

Fifteen of the cities are in Asia, with the first eight being in India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.

This global screening study of the Paris-based organisation makes a first estimate of the exposure of the world’s large port cities to coastal flooding because of storm surges and damage due to high winds.

The third study by the World Bank (2012) emphasises that it is essential that a range of risks focusing on developing countries, especially the poor, for global warming induced climate change be outlined.

All these high profile reports have come to a common conclusion: The coastal regions of the world would suffer heavily both in economic and social terms from frequent climatic hazards.

However, one does not have to wait to see the devastation unfolding 50 years from now in the Bay of Bengal delta. Indeed, the account of the last 50 years says it all.

The information suggests that frequency and increasing force of extreme weather conditions from cyclones, together with the tidal surge, have been major causes for the plundering of the Bay of Bengal coast.

Most recently, back-to-back Category-4 cyclones brought to this region huge loss of life and property along the coasts of Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, India (Sidr, Aila, Nargis, Phailin, Mohasen, and Komen).

Over the last half a century, almost 40 cyclones have hit the Bay of Bengal coast. COP21 in Paris, last December, made it clear that the Bangladeshi coast is one of the most vulnerable regions which will need extra care, and require more and more support with adaptation funds.

The Bangladeshi government, with its Climate Trust Fund and with the support of the UN Green Fund, has been investing in the coastal areas with numerous adaptation projects.

One of these initiatives was to protect the coastline by planting and growing millions of trees.

The government has such projects on the coasts of Teknaf and Cox’s Bazar. Over the years, the native breed of Zhaou has been planted in the millions in the area. Abu Taher published a piece on February 10 which was not only mind-boggling but sad as well.

Fifty thousand trees had a been robbed over the course of few nights from the Teknaf area recently.

The Forest Department planted half a million trees along the coastline in 2006-07. The trees have been growing exceptionally well over the last eight years.

Now, 50,000 trees are gone, leaving behind a man-made catastrophe under the nose the Forest Department.

The locals say that, these days, the coastline has become a haven for tree robbers at night. It has been also reported that the tree robbers alone cannot plunder the Zhaou forest the way they did. There had to be some involvement of unscrupulous forest department employees.

During my foray in the area of adaptation research, I found that it has been now established that native breeds of trees are most effective in protecting the coastline.

The World Agro Forestry works with suitable native trees in both coastal and mountain areas to protect the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable regions.

In the era of climate change, the trees protecting the coastline are precious things, and plundering them after seven to eight years of growth is tantamount to slaughtering humanity.

The Teknaf incident is unprecedented. In the past, it has come to the media that people rob the trees from both sides of the highways in broad daylight, as if those trees on the road side are free for all.

One wonders if the kings of the forest or roads and highways know that the PM of this nation has been awarded the world’s highest prize for her role in conserving and protecting the nation from the impact of climate change.

What is urgent now is to invest in an awareness campaign and facilitate policing the plantation forests involving the coastal community.

The trees are the lifeline of the coastal areas and needs care and de facto community ownership by the locals as well.

Moreover, education institutions in the coastal areas can also be engaged in protecting the plantation forests. The responsibility does not end at planting trees, they also need care and protection in perpetuity.


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