In 2012, the forest department took an initiative to protect threatened varieties of bamboo by creating the country’s first national bamboo park in Sylhet.
The following year, the park was inaugurated at Forest School and Training Institute on June 6, where 23 varieties of bamboo were planted.
However, in just nine years, the bamboo park disappeared and only a handful of bamboo bushes survived.
The initiative was taken by the Wildlife Conservation and Eco-Tourism Development Project, for which approximately 1.417 hectares of land, including two hillocks, was selected.
The forest department planted 23 varieties of bamboo: Kalshi, Pecha, Rupahi, Tenga, Jai, Muli, Thai Barua, Kata Barua, Pali Marka, Kanchi, Budum, Kali, Sonali, Dolu, Makal, Mritinga, Tetua, Ora, Betua, Porua, Barua, Botom, Rangan and Parua.
The park was inaugurated by the then chief conservator of forests Md Yunus Ali.
While visiting the bamboo park recently, this correspondent witnessed only small bushes of four varieties of bamboo. A forest guard was chopping down five or six pieces of bamboo from a bush.
He said these will be used to make a fence.
While talking to another forest guard, this correspondent learned that bamboo varieties in the plain-land were destroyed the very year they were planted.
Seeking anonymity, he said no one looked after the park, and people living nearby cut bamboo from the unprotected park over the years.
Advocate Shah Shaheda Akhter, Sylhet divisional coordinator of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), said, “They [forest department] tend to create some projects to show that they utilised the allotted budget, but only a handful of people get benefited from those.”
“This bamboo park could have been a milestone in the conservation of rare and threatened varieties of bamboo. But carelessness killed the park,” she added.
Contacted, Sylhet Divisional Forest Officer Md Towfiqul Islam said he was unaware of such a park and project. The next day, he reached out to this correspondent with information regarding the park.
“As far as I gathered, the bamboo park has been almost destroyed over the years. I will be visiting the spot soon and will take initiative to rejuvenate the park by doing everything necessary,” he said.