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History of Forest Management in Bangladesh

History of Forest Management in Bangladesh

G. M. Khattak


Bengal, till the close of the nineteenth century, had paid little attention to forest conservancy and was still importing railway sleepers from Norway. Only in 1854 was Dr. T.A. Anderson, Superintendent Botanic Gardens Calcutta, appointed as Conservator of Forests Lower Provinces in addition to his own duties. Large forested tracts were at this time being cleared for cultivation. Although the British Government assumed the ownership of the Sunderban forest in 1828, no attempt was made to introduce forest conservancy for another half a century and in fact large leases were given during this period for clearing the forest and reclaiming land for cultivation (CHOUDHURY, 1968).

The forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts had been under uncontrolled exploitation since early days and large-sized timber, and bamboos, were floated down the Karnafuli river to supply the Chittagong and other markets. Dacca, under the Moghul rule, was a great ship building centre and its timber supply was from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (STEBBING, 1921). The Chittagong Hill Tracts have since ancient times been inhabited by the Chakma, Mog, Murung, Tripura, and Lushai tribes who subsist on shifting cultivation (jhuming). They cut and burn the forests and sow rice, millets, vegetables, cotton, melons and tobacco by dibbling in patches and harvest the crops as they ripen. Every two to three years, as the soils get depleted, they move to another area, leaving their abandoned clearings to revert to forest.

According to Cowan (1923) the Chittagong Hill Tracts were made a district in 1860, and in 1862 toll stations were established on the rivers where duty was collected by the District Officers staff on forest produce floated down to Chittagong. In 1869 an Assistant Conservator of Forests was appointed to select forests suitable for reservation. In 1871, 5,670 square miles of the district out of its total area of 6,882 square miles was constituted a Government forest. On April 1, 1871 the Forest Department took over the toll stations on the rivers. The marking hammers of wood cutters were then registered and they were prohibited from cutting trees below prescribed sizes. In 1871 teak was introduced from Burma at Sitapahar and Pahartali. The work at the latter site had soon to be abandoned due to damage by cattle.

Sir William Schlich, Conservator of Forests Bengal, visited these forests in 1875 and found that the hill tribesmen were free to cut and burn where they liked. A permit was required for exporting timber from the Hill Tracts and duty was collected on this timber at the toll stations which have already been mentioned. Schlich recommended the formation of two categories.

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Pakistan Journal of Forestry


Vol. 73, Iss. 1


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