When humans make trees their foe

Dhaka,  Fri,  23 June 2017
Published : 17 Jun 2017, 20:11:21
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OPINION

When humans make trees their foe

With around 150 killed and many injured in landslides that came crashing down on dwellings along denuded hill slopes, and during rescue operations, lone trees stay with the grim reminder: Nature often takes revenge in the event of excesses done to it, writes Shihab Sarkar
A recent issue of a globally reputed US monthly pictorial magazine has published the photograph of a legendary tree. It's a centuries-old mango tree in a village in Ghana. The shaded venue under the tree has for centuries been serving as a meeting place for people living in the surrounding villages. Residents of the neighbouring areas find the spot highly convenient to organise varied types of events there. That the tree is a reliable nightly abode for birds doesn't require elaboration. Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is said to have spent his leisurely time under this tree in his native village.

There are a number of trees throughout the world which have their unique stories to tell. Beginning from the Bodhi Tree in ancient eastern India, under which Buddha attained his enlightenment, to the apple tree explaining the law of universal gravitation to Isaac Newton in Lincolnshire, UK --- all of them have left their mark in history. Scores of other trees have been made famous owing to their being linked to socio-political, cultural and other events. Since ancient times, trees have been known as a generous giver of fruits and flowers, shade and protection from natural calamities. Had there been no trees, man would have been deprived of this widely available and cheap firewood and timber. That man would one day identify indiscriminate felling of trees as being responsible for the long-threatening environmental catastrophes eluded his thoughts.  Just a hint of this cataclysmic development would have put a restraint on man's recklessness. When the human species became aware of the damages done to its very survival through welcoming machine and destroying trees, it was too late. This consequential realisation took only around three hundred years to dawn on man. By that time non-fruit trees and plants have turned out to be veritably 'space-encroaching'. Technology was given more preference than the plant world. These days, despite the ongoing environmental activism by committed groups, the general people remain aloof from these campaigns. It applies to both developed and developing countries. The situation is worse in the latter.

Thanks to its tree-friendly geology, Bangladesh has been gifted with a verdant landscape since ancient times. The land has few areas that do not grow trees and plants. In spite of this fact, it is considered one of the countries having forest cover far less than is required. That Bangladesh is one of the few countries mindlessly frittering away its potential for growing trees in abundance has been emphasised time and again. Few take notice of the great national lapse. Meanwhile, the observance of the national tree plantation day or week goes ahead annually with great fervour. Lots of people in the country are tree-loving. Be one is rich or poor, a person oriented to nature, and owning a patch of land, is hardly found averse to plantation of trees. Moreover, vast swathes under social forestry have been raised in the rural areas. The country also has century-old trees which prove people's love for this wonderful creation of nature.

These pleasant truths turn pale if they are placed beside the massive tragedy that recently befell vast areas in the greater Chittagong region. The post-rains calamitous landslides that played havoc with three hill districts, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar have been blamed by experts on a mindless tampering with nature. In the last two and half decades, the proverbially lush green Chittagong Hill Tracts have witnessed indiscriminate felling of trees by settlers from the plain land. With around 150 killed and many injured in landslides that came crashing down on dwellings along denuded hill slopes, and during rescue operations, lone trees stay with the grim reminder: Nature often takes revenge in the event of excesses done to it.

shihabskr@ymail.com



 
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