Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

8 Forest Regulation

The regulation of forest resources by the state is normally dictated by the condtion of resource, degree of conflict, institutions and their capacity of conflict resolution, external pressures, and enforceability of regulations. This chapter attempts to provide information on legal regulation of forest resources in Bangladesh. To provide a broader picture, this chapter includes other laws that are in some way related to forests and different international conventions which are operative in Bangladesh.

8.1 General

The fundamental legal document is the constitution of Bangladesh that empowers the government to make laws and regulation. It has several provisions with implications on the authority, control and management of public and private forest resources in Bangladesh. It empowers the courts or the judiciary to enforce the judicial implementation of different laws and regulations. Bangladesh shares with the majority of the subcontinent the British legacy of legal and centralized control of natural resources like forests. In addition to the forest and wildlife acts, Bangladesh has many acts and international conventions that affect her forest and wildlife resources.

In this chapter, the presentation of the forest Act follows the decription of Acts other than the forest Act and it precedes the wildlife Act. The chapter then deals with the environmental Act, international coventions and institutions (other than forest department) that are empowered to look after forests within their admininstrative boundaries.

8.2 State Acquisition and Tenancy (SAT) Act, 1950

Prior to SAT Act, 1950, the tenants were subject to the will of a pyramid of landlords (Zamindars). This act abolished the landlord system and vested all the land in the constitution (State). It provided title of the land to its tillers and set limits on extent and kinds of private land holding. The act allowed for retention of the homesteads and agricultural lands, up to a specified limit but did not entitle a tenant to retain forested lands. Therefore, during the period SAT Act became operative, many people illegally cleared their forests and hastily erected settlements so that government is not able to claim that land.

The private forest lands acquired by the government under the SAT Act are called "acquired forests". The Forest Department manages about 9,600 hectares of acquired forests. This figure is far smaller than the amount of land historically acquired. The government has reserved many of these acquired lands under the Forest Act, 1927 and those areas are now counted with the reserved forests.

Under the SAT Act, the government has also acquired full ownership of many of "vested forests" (under Private Forest Act) and reserved them. The small area that is still managed as "vested forests" are largely lands that the government could not acquire under the SAT Act.

8.3 The Acquisition of Wasteland Act, 1950

This Act authorizes the government to acquire private lands that have not been cultivated during last five years, for any public purposes including afforestation. The government has not applied this law widely to acquire lands for forestry purposes, since under the Private Forest Act, 1959 the Government has the alternative of temporarily vesting lands lying idle for more than three years and not paying outright for the title to the land.

8.4 Brick Burning (Control) (Amendment) Act, 1992

Brick making is a major domestic industry in Bangladesh and it uses considerable amount of fuelwood. The Brick Burning (Control) Act, 1989 as amended in 1992 outlaws the use of wood fuels in brick making. It provides for fines, imprisonment, and loss of license to make bricks for breaking its legal provisions. However, fuelwood is being commonly used as fuel for brick making. Currently, there is no substitute either for bricks in construction industry or for fuelwood as a source of energy in brick making. Under such circumstances, the act has become mostly unenforceable.

8.5 Other Relevant Laws

Land laws are very important because they directly affect forest resources. However, the efficiency of land laws depends on the completeness and reliability of land records. The land records in Bangladesh are incomplete and often unreliable. This condition has lead to quite conflicting claims to both the government and the private lands and forests in Bangladesh. Further, when land laws limit the size of land ownership, they also affect spatial and temporal patterns of private forests. In Bangladesh, much of the private forests are in form of small lots or homesteads. Such land related laws that have direct bearing on private forests in Bangladesh include the Limitation Act, 1887, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the East Bengal Government Land (Recovery of Possession) and Building Act, 1952, and the Land Reforms Act, 1984.

Another very important legislation having direct bearing on open access forests is the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871. It deals with stray livestock and control of their damage to public areas.

Country tax laws provide incentive to maintain the tree cover. The tax rate is lower on uncultivated lands that support forests on somewhat larger holdings. This benefit does not have a significant impact on the landscape, as most of the tree growers are rural poor, small and marginal farmers who pay no property or income tax.

Some laws affect the implementation of the Forest Act itself and the efficiency of forest management. For example Penal Code, 1860, the Evidence Act, 1871, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898, and the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 define the way judiciary deals with different forest offences. Similarly, the Contract Act, 1872 and the Sale of Goods Act, 1930 control the sale of forest produce. The Social Welfare Act, 1961, and the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 1978 guide and control NGOs, who are key to the success of social and community forestry in Bangladesh.

8.6 Forest Act (Amendment), 1989

The Forest Act of 1927 as amended in 1989 has its roots in Indian Forest Act, 1878. The Forest Act grants the government several basic powers, largely for conservation and protection of government forests, and limited powers for private forests. The 1927 version of the act was amended in 1989 for extending authority over "any [Government-owned] land suitable for afforestation".

Forest department is the main agency to implement the provisions of the Forest Act. The Act, however, does not specify any sort of institutional structure for the forest or other land holding agencies. It also does not set out any specific policy direction for managing the forests. Bangladesh has formulated a series of eleven rules for delegating legal powers to Forest Officers, from the Chief Conservator down to Forest Guards for implementing certain parts of the act.

Most of the forest lands under the management of forest department are areas declared to be reserved and protected forests under this act. The available figures for the current total area of reserved or protected forest are not consistent (Table 4 at Appendix). The areas in Bangladesh that are referred to as "village forests" are actually privately owned land covering about 270,000 hectares. Under the Forest Act the government may establish village forests by assigning parts of reserved forest to particular villages for their use. However, this provision has never been used in Bangladesh.

The act empowers the government to regulate the felling, extraction, and transport of forest produce in the country. The process to get permit for felling trees and transporting the material is quite bureaucratic and time consuming. The level of competent authority increases with the number of trees in question. Forest department limits the routes for transportation of forest produce, inspects and marks the material for transportation. The government has made many rules for this purpose including the following:

Sylhet Forest Transit Rules, 1951;

Dinajpur and Rangpur Forest Transit Rules, 1954

Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Comilla Forest Transit Rules, 1959

Control of Transit of timbers and other forest produce for transit in the Sundarbans, 1959

Dacca Forest Transit Rules, 1959

Mymensingh Forest Transit Rules, 1959

East Pakistan General Forest Transit Rules, 1960

Chittagong Hill Tracts Forest Transit Rules, 1974

The government has promulgated regulations both for some specific category of forests like Prohibition and Rules affecting Protected Forests in Sundarbans Division (1959), and for some specific purposes like Rules for the Preservation of Trees and Timbers belonging to the Government in the District of Chittagong, Sylhet Forest (Protection from Fire) Rules, 1954, and Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts Reserved Forests Fire Protection Rules, 1958).

However, under current social conditions and existing institutional structure, the forest department finds it difficult to enforce many of the rules and regulations issued under the Forest Act. For example, forged claims and encroachment are common due to rough and incomplete records of land and moving people from encroached forest land is socially and politically sensitive (SMPFS, 1998). Bangladesh is seriously considering improvements to improve enforceability of the legal provisions through changes in acts, rules, regulations, and institutional structures of the forest department. The efficiency of change will however be defined by the development of local institutions and human resources for conservation of natural resources.

8.7 The Bangladesh Private Forest Act (PFA), 1959

The Private Forest Act of 1959 allows the Government to take over management of improperly managed private forest lands, any private lands that can be afforested, and any land lying fallow for more than three years. The Private Forest Ordinance was originally enacted in 1945, as the Bengal Private Forest Act, and was re-enacted by the Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1949 before being issued as an Act in 1959. These government managed lands under this act are called "vested forests". The Forest Department manages approximately 8,500 hectares in the country as "vested forests" (Table 4 at Appendix). This area is relatively small, but the area historically affected by this law is much larger.

PFA, 1959 empowers the government to require management plans for private forests and to assume control of private forests as vested forests. Government has broad powers to write rules regarding use and protection of vested forests, and apply rules to "controlled forests," which include all private forests subject to any requirement of the Act. The Bangladesh (The East Pakistan) Private Forest Management Rules, 1959 provide a format for preparation of such management plans of private forests. The format follows outline of the traditional forest timber management plans that does not deal with other forest produce, wildlife, or environmental amenities.

After finalization and approval of the management plans by the government, the private owner becomes bound to implement the plan and in case of the default, the government may take over management of the land as a vested forest. The government can also impose a "cess", a per hectare fee, to cover its administrative costs for implementing the management plan. Private owners of such vested forests are entitled to the net profits from the sale of forest produce from their lands.

8.8 The Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act, 1974

The 1974 Wildlife Act consolidates and improves the older legal provisions to conserve the wildlife in Bangladesh. The Forest Department has the primary responsibility for implementing the Act. The Act allows the government to declare any land to be a wildlife sanctuary, a national park, or a game reserve. Bangladesh currently has fourteen Protected Areas (nine wildlife sanctuaries, four national parks, and a single game reserve). The Act, however, does not contain any provision for establishing and managing buffer zones. Under current social, economic and institutional conditions the forest department faces many problems in enforcing different provisions of this act.

8.9 The Protection and Conservation of Fish (Amendment) Act, 1984

The Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, 1950 was amended to update and consolidate provisions under different laws. It now defines conservative methods for catching fish throughout the country. The fish, when caught in the forest, are forest produce and also subject to regulation under the Forest Act, 1927. The fish collection makes significant contribution to the forest revenue, particularly in the Sundarbans Forest area.

8.10 Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995

Although environmental laws are in an embryonic stage in Bangladesh, the country has recently enacted a good legislation, the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995. This Act has direct as well as indirect bearing on the welfare of the forests and other natural resources in the country. It allows the government to declare any areas as ecologically critical area and to define what operations shall and shall not be done in such areas.

8.11 Forest Related International Conventions

International convention to which Bangladesh is signatory demand more control over forest resources than is provided in the current forest related legislations. The government of Bangladesh is considering a proposal to make some amendments in her laws that will improve satisfaction of the signed conventions. The following describes some of the important forest related conventions signed by the government.

The "Ramsar" Convention

It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as waterfowl habitat. Bangladesh has signed this binding agreement in 1971 that requires her to designate at least one site as a wetland of international importance, to discharge international responsibilities for wildfowl conservation, to develop wetlands nature reserves, and to train personnel for wetland management. For this purpose, Bangladesh has identified "Sundarban wet lands " as a wetland of international importance.

Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage

Bangladesh signed this binding agreement in 1972 that asks Bangladesh to identify, protect, and conserve her natural and cultural heritage, and integrating such protection and conservation into their national planning. Bangladesh has selected West Wildlife Sanctuary of the Sundarbans for this purpose.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna

Bangladesh is a signatory to this convention commonly known as "CITES" that demands Bangladesh to place control on the international trade in specified endangered species. Bangladesh currently manages this international obligation through Wild life Act of 1974 and may have to amend this for full satisfaction of the convention.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Bangladesh has accepted this binding convention that desires her to conduct national inventory of sources and sinks of green house gases, develop national and regional programs like afforestation to mitigate climate change, promote sustainable management of greenhouse gas sinks like forests, and include climate change considerations in her policy making and impact assessment.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page