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Loss of natural land puts Bangladesh at risk

Caritas has been promoting organic farming and changing food habits to reduce pressure on arable land

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

Published: July 27, 2016 08:07 AM GMT

Updated: July 27, 2016 08:32 AM GMT

Loss of natural land puts Bangladesh at risk

The Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest in southern Bangladesh. A UN report states Bangladesh has lost 65,000 hectares of forests from 1990 to 2015. (ucanews.com photo by Stephan Uttom)

Massive loss of forest and agricultural lands endangers the environment and food security of Bangladesh, according to Caritas officials.

In Bangladesh, the pressure of 160 million people crammed into 147,570 square kilometers of land is the biggest cause of arable land loss, says Sukleash Geroge Costa, national coordinator of Strengthening Adaptive Farming project at Caritas.

"Agricultural lands are in decline day by day to meet the demands of an increased population. It puts pressure on food security," Costa told ucanews.com.

Bangladesh lost 65,000 hectares of forest from 1990 to 2015. Trees now cover a mere 11 percent of the country, according to a report released by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations this year.

The report, released on July 25, states that this largely agricultural country saw 1.145 million hectares of agricultural lands disappear between 1990 and 2010.

Bangladesh is one of only 17 countries that declined in both forest and arable lands. Forest decline was blamed on deforestation and illegal encroachment. Arable lands were lost due to rapid urbanization, infrastructure and housing.

The country remains highly food-insecure, with roughly a quarter of the population, or 40 million people, not having regular access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, according to the UN World Food Program.

In order to reduce pressure on arable land, Caritas has been promoting kitchen gardening, organic farming and changing food habits.

"We encourage people to grow vegetables in their yards and unused lands around their homestead," Costa said. "In order save our arable lands from gradual decline. We need to change our food habits and learn how to produce more crops from smaller areas."

"The use of forests for firewood and industrial purposes as well as illegal logging are also to be blamed," said Pintu William Gomes, from the Disaster Management Department at Caritas.

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Bangladesh is already at great risk from climate change in the form of natural disasters like cyclones and floods. Deforestation makes things worse, Gomes added.

To promote forestation, Caritas runs regular tree planting campaigns with local people across the country, especially in coastal areas, which are more vulnerable to natural calamities.

"In coastal areas, we plant trees that can tolerate saline seawater. In most other places, we emphasize on planting fruit trees that can protect the environment and provide food simultaneously," said Gomes.

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