The lives of many families in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have become easier due to UNDP's watershed management initiative supported by the Bangladesh Forest Department and USAID. Photo: Emdadul Islam Bitu/UNDP

As part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Strengthening Inclusive Development in Chittagong Hill Tracts (SID-CHT) project, Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) launched the Action Plan Implementation under USAID funded Chittagong Hill Tracts Watershed Co-Management Activity (CHTWCA). Under the government approved Action Plan the BFD has begun implementation of forest ecosystem restoration in the Headwater Reserved Forests and Protected Areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

The Action Plan Implementation event was inaugurated on November 16, 2020 by the UNDP Resident Representative, Sudipto Mukerjee, and launched by USAID Director of Economic Growth Office, John Smith-Sreen. The Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests Dr Md. Zaglul Hossain outlined the need for this important initiative in his welcome address, saying, “Sustainable forest management, ecosystem and biodiversity conservation have emerged as important national and global issues. Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is the hotspot mainly due to its tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests and encompassing biological and cultural diversity. The CHT forest ecosystems are important, considering the risks of climate change faced by the communities there.” Key technical paper outlining planned activities and outputs was presented by Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests Gobinda Roy, Project Coordinator, CHTWCA.

Sudipto Mukerjee congratulated the BFD for launching the Action Plan Implementation as part of the USAID-funded initiative. “Forest ecosystems play a critical role in the country’s economy and ecology. The role of forests is especially significant in the predominantly agrarian economy of the CHT, due to the region’s high vulnerability to climate change and heavy dependence of rural poor on forest ecosystems for their livelihoods and lives. The hill forests, in addition to providing economic goods, protect the country against floods, landslides, and cyclones as triggered by climate change which is more pronounced in the CHT,” said Sudipto Mukerjee. 

John Smith-Sreen said in his speech, “For nearly two decades, USAID has partnered with Bangladesh to protect its natural resources and biodiversity bringing together the community and the government to form co-management organizations. We believe that the CHTWCA will continue to strengthen environmental governance. The initiative focuses on empowering local communities to collaborate with the government, and this is central to its success. Together through such collaboration – CHTWCA in phase 1 has brought 117 village common forests covering nearly 8,000 hectares of land, and collaboration with BFD has resulted in nearly 1,500 hectares under conservation enriched with trees of indigenous species. This partnership will continue to improve the management of nearly 4,500 hectares of Reserved Forests and 60,000 hectares of Protected Areas.” Finally concluding address was made by Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests Md. Rakibul Hasan Mukul, Project Director SUFAL Project. He congratulated Mr. Gobinda Roy and the CHTWCA for timely launching the Action Plan Implementation and wished all success in future with field support provided by the BFD officials of the CHT. 

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