A heartening policy of the present government has been afforestation since its coming to power. The rate of afforestation has gained a momentum, no doubt, from the policy. The government has been encouraging tree plantation with stepped-up publicities in the mass media. Tree saplings are being planted all over the country in public places such as on the sides of highways and roads, coastal areas and government lands. Seeds and saplings are increasingly available in government-owned nurseries and also private ones. Some NGOs have been conducting programmes designed to facilitate tree plantation and people in the rural areas seem to be inspired by them.
But there is also much worry about the ultimate gains to accrue from afforestation measures in the absence of hard policies to put a hard brake on deforestation activities as well. The rate of deforestation is probably higher than the rate of afforestation. The speedier deforestation is the outcome of factors such as the inability to supply gas to all parts of the country. The non-availability of a cheap and readily available fuel source mean continued felling of trees to supply users in the brick kilns. Firewood is also used extensively across the country for cooking. The furniture industry is a large scale user of timber. Thousands of trees are being cut down every week for their wood to be supplied to the furniture industry and for boat making. Even the country's reserved forest areas are not being spared from this plunder due to the corruption and lack of care on the part of forest department employees. The government's afforested areas also come under their attacks.
Therefore, the pressing need is to create conditions that would discourage the use of wood. First of all, coal must be ordered as the only legitimate fuel source for the brick kilns and a ban applied on the use of wood in the kilns. More importantly, the ban will have to be scrupulously enforced. At the same time, coal from the Barapukuria coal mine should be supplied at low costs to the brick kiln operators. Restrictions may be imposed to reduce the use of timber in the furniture making industry. Reduced duties on artificial materials and fittings for the furniture industry will contribute to this end and also steps to produce plastics and wood-like products locally in support of the furniture industry and boat building activities. Guarding of the reserved forests and afforested areas must become serious activity on the part of the relevant ministry and it should take proper steps to ensure such guarding.
The goals of afforestation and the gains thereof can be realised only after implementation of policies that would substantially decelerate the rate of deforestation.