Bangladesh is an independent and sovereign state since December 1971. It has about 111.4 million people (1991) in Bangladesh growing at about 2.1% per annum with about 80% of them living in rural areas in 59, 990 villages having average household size of 5.3 persons. The overall literacy rate is 32.4% but the literacy rate of women is about 50% of men. The population density is very high (about 750/km2). The following figure captures the degrading trend of her forest resources during the last decade.
Fig.: Changes on the Forest land during last decade
During last ten years ending 1996, more than half of the closed forests (medium to good density) have been degraded to poor density forests (other forests). Many forest areas have been encroached. Area under plantations in Coastal Afforestation divisions has declined by more than 25%. The protected area in two of the three wildlife sanctuaries in Sunderbans has gone down while the total area under PAs has increased. Forest losses remain unsurveyed and their exact sizes and locations are not conclusively known.
During next twenty years, the production of all forest products except poles is likely to remain below the domestic requirement. This prediction is based on the major structural changes in natural forest and plantations like decline in average age, average diameter, and density. Further, in near future, the share of plantations in national sawlogs and pulpwood production is expected to go up to 30%.
The forests of Bangladesh have been under planned management for more than hundred years. During last few decades, the socio-economic conditions have minimized the utility and use of forest planning and management. The unplanned biotic pressures have far exceeded the planned conservation efforts and have shrunk, degraded and fragmented the forest resources. At the same time, the national development plans have developed a better perception about forestry as an important sector impacting social, economic and environmental conditions and ask for a more socially oriented forestry institution. The issue of institutional reform in forestry is under active consideration of the government.
Main problem in Bangladesh is high economic and spatial incidence of poverty. Secondary problems like high rate of population growth, scarce financial resources, inappropriate technologies, institutional weakness, poor human resources, poor quality of data, and mainy related forestry problems like declining productivity and sustainability of forest resources are manifestations of the "main problem".
Like other South Asian countries, the main challenge for the forestry sector at macro level is to attract sufficient financial resources for its development and capacity building for providing necessary support for sustaining the environment, the natural resources and the people. At micro level, the problem is to satisfy the growing needs of increasing population and to maintain its support function to other sectors.
To meet new expectations and challenges, Bangladesh has adopted a new National Forest Policy in 1994. The policy lays emphasis on people oriented programs to manage environment, to preserve existing values, to conserve plants and animals, and to maximize benefits to local people. NFP provides a basis for legislation, plans, and a framework to correct institutional inadequacies to maintain dynamic growth.