In the past five months, the Forest Department has organised more than 30 programmes to raise awareness about forests and crimes against wildlife
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, in his message for this year's International Day of Forests, has urged all governments, businesses and civil society to take urgent action to halt deforestation and restore degraded forests.
He stated that this should be done, "So future generations can enjoy a greener, healthier future."
Bangladesh is going to participate in the global event today and local nature conservationists and forest officials think that educating people – particularly youngsters – about forests and biodiversity, will be an effective way to achieve Guterres' goal.
Since 2008 – when noted naturalist Dwijen Sharma founded Tarupallab – the volunteer organisation has been organising the "Know Plants and Trees Programme" to make people eco-conscious.
Tarupallab's General Secretary Mokarram Hossain told The Business Standard the programme to recognise plants is symbolic, and the main objective of the educational programme is to let people know why plants are important and the reasons to conserve them.
"The world around us, our daily life, food stock, outfits, and whatever else we use are interlinked with plants. In this context, we thought that if plants become familiar to us, we will be able to love them and act to conserve them," Mokarram said.
So far, Tarupallab has organised 31 programmes through which participants were introduced to around 600 plant species in the wild.
The organiser said 80 was the average number of participants at each event.
Citing multiple benefits of the programme, Mokarram said, "Knowledge of plants will help us construct our surroundings in an eco-friendly style. Additionally, a plant enthusiast sensitised to deforestation could motivate more people in future."
Forests are home to 80 percent of terrestrial plants and wildlife species across the world. The greenery generates oxygen that all living beings breathe.
Moreover, forests, as well as the land they occupy, act as crucial carbon sinks, absorbing about two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
They are crucial for limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels.
It is the forests that shelter micro-organisms, insects and wildlife while maintaining the ecosystem. They purify the air and water.
However, the health of the ecosystem is declining at an unprecedented speed due to deforestation.
This year's forests day highlights the relationship between forests and the rich biodiversity they support.
Forests concentrate clouds in the sky and bring about rain. That is why green coverage results in more rainfall than on deserted land.
Also, forests produce food, medicine and wood. Broadly speaking, they balance the ecosystem where we, the human beings, survive.
"If forests are sustained, wildlife can survive. If wildlife disappears, the whole ecosystem will be jeopardised," said Jahir Uddin Akon, director of Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) under the Forest Department.
Given the limited content on forests, wildlife and the environment in the curriculum, the department launched an awareness-building campaign across educational institutions seven years ago.
Jahir ramped up the campaign since he took charge of the WCCU last year.
"Recently, I visited an industrialist's mango orchard on a factory premises. The saplings were not sowed properly. Moreover, unplanned weeding has left the soil at the trees' bases exposed and dry.
"If grasses containing moisture had been planted there, the trees could have survived with a little irrigation," Jahir recalled while citing the importance of learning about how to plant.
In the past five months, the Forest Department has organised more than 30 participatory programmes to raise awareness – mostly among school students – about forests and crimes against wildlife.
So far, the campaign has been carried-out in 11 districts and reached nearly 9,000 participants.
The campaign features the screening of a documentary film on wildlife and lectures on the forests of Bangladesh. A memory test is held after the session and winners are awarded.
"During the open discussion, students commonly raise two questions: about why wildlife should be protected by law and whether the campaign can protect wildlife from extinction," Jahir said.
"They ask why people should not domesticate parakeets or mynahs. We respond, 'a bird, spreading its wings, can fly around ten to twelve miles. Why should we cage them? It is inhumane to do so,'" Jahir said.
The sensitisation has motivated a number of students to volunteer to control wildlife poaching and game hunting which, Jahir believes, plays a significant role in conserving biodiversity.