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3. Bangladesh

Country data

Total land area (thousand ha)*


Total forest area (thousand ha)/% of total land*


Population 1999 (millions)*


Rural population 1995 (%)**


GNP per person 1995 (US$)**


Source of data:

* Country Report, APFC 18th Session, 2000
**FAO - State of the World’s Forest 1999

General information

Bangladesh is located at the lowest part of the Ganges-Brahmaputrap-Meghna (GBM) river systems with a long coastal belt along the Bay of Bengal. The country is endowed with diversified species of flora and fauna. Agriculture is the major economic activity. There are three broad physiographic regions in the country: a) flood plains, consisting generally of level alluvium, occupying about 80% of the country; b) terraces, comprising slightly uplifted blocks, accounting for 8%; and c) hills, which occupy about 12% of the land area.

The high population density and meagre and stressed resources have compounded the environmental problem, which is difficult to resolve. Nearly half of the population is living under the poverty line. In addition, the income gap is high and the distribution is unequal. Thus, the social environment is seriously unsustainable.

Bangladesh generally enjoy a sub-tropical monsoon climate. In winter, the temperature varies from minimum 7-12 oC to a maximum of 23-31 oC; in summer the maximum temperature is 36 oC (occasionally it may go up to 40 oC).

The arable land covers an area of 9.4 million ha, or 75% of the total land area; out of this, about 97%, or 9.1 million ha, are regularly cultivated. According to Government statistics, livestock and fisheries are marginally more important than forestry.

In agricultural production, Bangladesh has not been able to achieve the expected economic level due to the low level of technology, poor infrastructure and low labour productivity. Growth in the industrial sector has also been poor, with 80% of the industries being of the cottage type. In recent years, a garment industry has developed, mainly for export.

About 60% of the rural population are classified as functionally land less and 70% of the landholdings are small. In addition, over 80% of the poor population, estimated at over 50 million, are concentrated in the rural areas. Encroachment is increasing in forest and marginal lands and about 50% of the forestlands are being cultivated or occupied.

Forest resources and land use

The forestry sector accounts for only about 3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 2% of the labour force. However, these figures do not reflect the real importance of the sector. The GDP figure does not count the large quantities of fuel wood, fodder, small timber and poles, thatching grass, medicinal herbs, and the organised illicit felling. The low contribution of the forestry sector to the GDP is also explained by several other factors, e.g. value added from wood processing is counted under the industry sector, rather than the forestry sector. In addition, the contribution of forest resources in protecting watershed and irrigation structures, reclaiming land from the sea, protecting coastal areas from storm damage, and in maintaining and upgrading the environmental quality, has not been quantified.

According to the country report submitted to the 18th Asia Pacific Forestry Commission, held in Australia, during May 2000, the total forest area was about 17,4% of the total land area. Details of the present forest, including village forests, social forestry plantations, garden, etc., are presented in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Forest area in Bangladesh

Kind of forest

(mill ha)

1. Forest managed by FD*


* Hill forest


* Natural mangrove forests


* Mangrove plantations


* Plain land sal forests


2. Unclassified State Forests


3. Village forests


4. Social forestry plantation


5. Plantation in tea & rubber garden




Note: * FD = Forestry Department of the Ministry of Environment and Forests

There are 12 established protected areas under the jurisdiction of the FD, but most of these are degraded due to illegal logging, land clearing, and poaching. The areas are poorly protected due to inadequate staff, poor facilities, and the lack of management plans. In addition, there are three wildlife sanctuaries in the Sundarbans (mangrove area) that were established to protect the habitat of tigers and other wildlife as an integral part of forest management. However, these sanctuaries also suffered in the past from neglect and inadequate staff and infrastructure facilities.

Ecologically, there are four main types of forests in Bangladesh as follows:

· Tropical wet evergreen forests
These forests usually occur in hills and moist shady areas in Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Sylhet. They are rich in floristic composition. A few semi-evergreens of deciduous species may occur, but they do not essentially change the evergreen characters of the forest. The forest is rich in epiphytes, orchids, and woody climbers, particularly in shady moist places.

· Tropical semi-evergreen forests
These forests occur in Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandarban, and Sylhet in less dry and hotter localities.

· Tropical moist deciduous forests
These forest occur in Dhaka, Mymensingh, Tangail, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Naogaon and Comilla. The principal species is Sal (Shorea robusta)

· Mangrove forest (tidal forests).

The natural mangrove forests is the Sunderban in Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira districts. Sunderbans constitutes the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest ecosystem. The total area of the Sunderban forest is about 0.601 million ha. Besides natural mangroves in Sunderbans, there are a number of man-made mangrove forests along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The total area of mangrove plantations in the country is 135,992 ha. These coastal mangrove forests play an important role in the reclamation of land, protection of coastal habitats from cyclones and tidal surges, and to uplift the socio-economic conditions of coastal people. The country is known to be the pioneer of innovative coastal afforestation technology in the world, which was started in the late sixties. These forests have had been established in Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Laksmipur, Noakhali, Feni, Chittagong and Cox’ Bazar Districts.

For the last few years, specific end use oriented plantations have been raised in Chittagong, Syllet, Cox’s Bazar, Chittaging Hill Tracts, the coastal regions and northern districts. These include fuel wood, pole and industrial plantations. Different species of both local and exotic trees have been identified and planted in different end-use oriented plantations.

In the Sundarban Forest Division, forests have been harvested according to a selection system where exploitable sizes were fixed and trees above certain diameters were extracted. The clear felling system is applied for the management of plain land Sal forests, with either coppice or artificial regeneration. However, because of serious degradation of the forests, a moratorium on the felling of trees in the Sal forests has been in force since 1972. At present, the degraded Sal forests are managed on the basis of participatory concept.

In order to conserve the natural forests, a moratorium on logging has been imposed since 1989 in all natural forests and will continue until the year 2005.

In line with the 1992 Earth Summit, the Government is committed to the in-situ conservation of biological diversity. Protected areas play a prime role in the country’s national plan for biodiversity conservation. The Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation Amendment) Act of 1974 provides the basic framework or guidelines for the conservation of wild animals. The same Act has provisions for the establishment and management of three categories of protected areas, i.e. national park, wildlife sanctuary and game reserve. At present there are seven wildlife sanctuaries, five national parks, and one game reserve. It is noted that the protected areas are home to about 500 species of wild vascular plants and around 840 species of wild animals.

To promote and implement a system of biodiversity conservation and sustainable management, and to strengthen the environment capability, the Forest Department has set up an Environmental Management wing under the overall supervision of a Deputy Chief Conservator of Forest.

At present, all the management plans for the protected areas have been finalised. They have been divided into several management zones and buffer zones. The plans took into consideration the type of conservation management system compatible to the ecosystem, the biophysical attributes, the climatic features, the socio-economic setting, present wildlife management practices, and the issues/problems and management considerations of the protected areas.

FAO web-site, i.e. (click forestry, subject, forest resources assessment, and publications), provides details information concerning forest resources in Bangladesh.

Production and processing

Annual wood production is estimated at about 9.5 million m3, of which 80% is used for fuel, and the remainder is converted to sawn wood. About 80% of the production comes from private sources, mainly homestead wood lots. In recent years, the annual production from State forests averaged 440,000 m3 of timber, 800,000 m3 of fuel wood and 90 million pieces of bamboo, representing only about 20% of the total wood production. Annual per capita wood consumption is about 0.1 m3, one of the lowest in the world. With Bangladesh’s population projected to increase to 145 million by the year 2000, the consumption per capita is likely to decline further.

Biomass fuels, including fuel wood, agricultural residues and dung, dominate energy consumption in rural areas. Other fuels account for only a small fraction of the total rural fuel consumption. Wood is not available in most rural areas, as a result of which the rural population depends on agricultural residues and dung for 90% of their fuel needs.

The primary processing industries in the sector include approximately 1,600 sawmills, 4 pulp and paper mills, 13 board mills, 2 timber treatment plants and 22 match factories. The privately owned factories include 8 board mills, 18 match factories, and 1,632 sawmills. The industries suffer from a shortage of raw materials, old and outdated equipment, and lack of trained personnel.


The MOEF has overall responsibility for the development of the forestry sector. It has jurisdiction over the FD, the Department of Environment (DE), the Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI), and Bangladesh Forest Industries Development Corporation (BFIDC). The FD is the primary Government agency responsible for the day-to-day management of forest resources. Its field operations consist of six Circles concerned with territorial forestry and 37 Forest Divisions under the Circles. The Divisions are further divided into Forest Ranges and Beats.

The field staffs are responsible for the establishment and maintenance of plantations, supervision of State forestlands, provision of industrial wood supplies, and extension and public relations at the local level. The FD is also responsible for training all technical forestry staff through its forest colleges and schools in Chittagong, Sylhet, and Rajshahi, while the Institute of Forestry at the Chittagong University provides professional forestry education. BFRI is located in Chittagong. It has two research branches for forest management and forest products and a general services branch.

In addition to the above project, FAO/UNDP and the Forest Department completed the Project BGD/84/056: Integrated Resource Development of the Sundarbands Reserved Forests. The objectives of the project were as follows: to produce a plan for integrated resource management designed to enhance the supply of wood and non-wood products, to conserve and manage aquatic and terrestrial wildlife resources, to study the potential for mobilising and assisting people to participate in income and employment generating activities in the area (with particular focus on disadvantaged groups), to develop the tourism and recreational potential, and to enhance the protective role of forests against cyclones, soil erosion and total surges. The report of the project consists of three volumes: The past and current situation and future management; Appendices giving further details; and Maps prepared from GIS and Hydraulics data bases. The documents have been used by the Government as references for further implementation.

Master Plan for Forestry Development

In response to the request from the Government for sustainable development of the forest resources and to arrest deforestation, the Asian Development Bank, UNDP, and FAO provided support for the preparation of the Master Plan for the Forestry Development (MFD). The exercise begun in June 1989 and the planning document was available in September 1993. It envisages bringing 25% of the land area under tree cover by the year 2005 through, among others things, people’s participation.

The aims of the MFD were to:

· identify policy issues and recommend policy and institutional sector reforms, which will lead to more rational development and use of forest resources;

· incorporate environmental concerns into forest management practices;

· develop a framework which will promote balanced and sustainable land-use practices, focusing on the basic needs of the rural population; and

· prepare programmes and projects intended to reverse the deterioration of the forest resource base, improve the supply of forest products, and contribute to better land-use practices.

The MFD identified the following major issues:

· the lack of Government attention to the sector, as a result of which policies, legislation, research, forest institutions and management practices are inappropriate and redundant;

· the current exploitation of State forests beyond the land’s natural productive capacity, rapid deterioration of forest resources and land degradation occurring from misuse, and forest resources largely remaining unproductive;

· the increasing population and landlessness, and the resultant tremendous pressure of land fragmentation and land-use conflicts which continue to erode resources in the sector;

· the continuing pressure on forest reserves and homestead forests which results in reduced tree cover, encroachment, unsustainable exploitation levels, permanent loss of biodiversity with extinction of wildlife, and a growing list of threatened species of flora and fauna; and

· the forest products supply/demand imbalances and the lack of community consultation and participation which is undermining development efforts in the sector.

The MFD presents a comprehensive 20-year plan (1993-2013) to preserve and develop the nation’s forest resources and addresses the critical issues confronting the sector. It recommends a new strategy and changes in forest policy, legislation, land tenure, marketing technology, and industrial processing.

The principal strategy includes:

· enhancing environmental preservation and conservation;

· introducing rational forest land use;

· increasing public participation and benefits from resource management;

· expanding the resource base;

· improving management practices; and

· undertaking efficient resource utilisation.

The document was submitted to the National Economic Council - the Executive Committee of the Planning Commission in the Ministry of Finance and was endorsed in July 1995 for integration into the five year development plan (1996-2000).

As the first step in the implementation of the MFD, the Government approved a new forest policy. The Ministry of Environment and Forests published the new policy in November 1995. To have legal and institutional reforms needed for the development of the forestry sector and to be in line with the new forest policy and the MFD, FAO provided a TCP/BGD/4553 project aimed to help with the preparation of investment and technical assistance projects related to institutional and legal reform within the framework of the new policy.

The TCP project was operational from September 1996 through 8 May 1998. The FAO project TCP/BGD/4533 recommended that the FD be reoriented toward sustainable forest development with the emphasis on people’s participation. The Government is still considering the recommendation and thus the time bound plan as recommended by the TCP project could not be followed. The recommendations and outcomes of the project include the following:

· All staff should be paid from the Revenue Budget and the cost of reorganisation of the Forest Department should be met from the revenue budget and not from the development budget;

· The Government should cease to be project driven and return to managing its own long term programmes. Loans for capital development should only be sought if recurrent expenses can be met from the revenue budget;

· Inclusion of a Publicity Cell in the new set-up of the Forest Department;

· A Monitoring and Evaluation cell in the Headquarters of the Forest Department and in both wings will be established;

· The staffing of Forest Management and Wildlife Conservation and Social Forestry wings will be 50:50 of the existing strength;

· All reforms should be completed according to a time bound plan. It was decided that the institutional reforms will be completed within 12 months from May 1998;

· The requirement of the Government to produce forest inventories, management plans, Forest Department annual reports and five year reports has been accepted.

The National Environmental Management Plan (NEMAP)

At the end of 1994, UNDP (supported by the World Bank) took the initiative in the preparation of a national environmental management plan (NEMAP). Participatory management of both natural forest and plantations is the main recommendation to combat deforestation. The approach was based on an extensive survey. Two questions were asked of the people surveyed: “What are your main environmental concerns?” and “What solutions/actions do you propose?”.

A conservation strategy is under preparation with the support of NORAD (Norwegian Aid). It is concerned with the biodiversity of the remaining forests (in particular the mangroves).

A number of policy decisions have been formulated and declared including:

· a moratorium on all exploitation of Government forests until the year 2000;

· a ban on the use of fuel wood for brick making (which consumes about 23% of fuel wood);

· the amendment in 1990 of the Forest Act, substantially increasing the Act’s penal provisions.

· launching a participatory forestry programme on non-government forest land, as well as a massive forest extension programme;

· the establishment of a new Social Forestry Department.

Aside from forestry, the Government has continuously accorded high priority to the environment. Three committees have been set up: the commissions on legislation and institutions are led by the secretary of MOEF, while the commission for donors’ co-ordination is led by the planning commission.

Focal point
M. Jalil
Chief Conservator of Forest
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Fax: (8802) 869210 Forest Department
Tlx: 672908 MOSP BJ


Kindness is a language the deaf can hear
and the blind can see.
(Shiv Khera - You can win)

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