Bamboo supply suspension from hill tracts due to the virus outbreak worries traders as the non-wood forest product rots
Bamboos worth around Tk6 crore are rotting in Khagrachari and Rangamati for lack of transportation amid the countrywide shutdown over coronavirus pandemic.
Piled up beside roads and on river banks, the bamboos are rotting as those dry up in the sun and then get wet in rain.
The Chattogram hill tracts is the largest bamboo suppliers of the country. Bamboo transportation from the districts to other parts of the country require Forest Department approval.
Amid the shutdown, the department is not allowing transportation of the non-timber forest product.
Bamboo traders have said the approval postponement has pushed 30,000 workers involved in bamboo collection, transportation and sales to the verge of starvation.
Bamboos were found piled up at Kutuk Chhari, Ghila Chhari, 17 Mile, Kaukhali Chhara, Cela Charra, different points by the Rangamati-Khagrachari road and on the bank of the River Maorum. Apart from this, bamboos are heaped up by the River Kasalong at Langadu.
Kutuk Chhari bamboo traders have said nearly three lakh pieces of bamboos had been cut during the January-March period of this year from the hilly areas. Those were then brought to Kutuk Chhari to be supplied to Chattogram, Feni and Cumilla.
However, the Forest Department permission for the bamboo supply was delayed as the department's Rangamati offices caught fire on March 15. Later on March 24, transportations except emergencies and food items were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Meantime, local bamboo traders' union leader Abdul Rahim said fruit and fish-laden vehicles were leaving Rangamati every day even amid the shutdown.
He wondered why the authorities did not understand that bamboo was also a perishable product.
Abdul Rahim said they paid the government every year for collecting bamboos from the hills.
"We would be able to minimize the loss if the authorities even allow us 10 to 12 days for transporting the stocks. Otherwise, the bamboos will be totally damaged by the next 15 days," he added.
Indra Moni Chakma and Kusum Chakma used to live on bamboo collection from the hills. They said they returned home nearly two months ago due to the virus fear.
"Since then we are jobless and do not know when the situation will become normal," they said.
Baghaichari upazila bamboo traders' union president Reserve Chandra Chakma said more than 30,000 workers like Moni and Kusum were in food crisis.
While contacted, Chattogram Divisional Forest Officer (Hill Tracts, South) Rafikur Jaman Shah said, "We are considering the matter seriously. Hope a decision will come in this regard very soon."