As nature is part of my job, several times I have to visit different forest areas under Sylhet division. One day evening while I was travelling inside the Lawachhara National Park heading to Sreemangol from Kamalganj, I noticed three or four wild boars were very near to parking place. I thought that it’s entirely natural and I am so much fortunate to observe wildlife in their natural movement. But I was a little bit confused when I witnessed the same situation at the same place again. I thought there might be a reason and felt interested to explore.
But it became clear to me when I was taking preparation for some high officials’ visit to the picnic spot of the park. To check the last stage preparation, I visited the picnic spot at the time of sunset with one of my colleagues. I was so much disappointed while I noticed that huge food wastage, especially fried rice and chicken, were cluttered the picnic spot. A picnic party consisting of around three hundred students left these foods. I instructed my colleague to arrange a labour as soon as possible and went to observe the walking trail inside the forest. While I was returning from the trail, I was surprised to notice that some wild boars and jungle fowls were eating the wasted and leftover foods.
I became surprised more when the labour and one forest department staff assured me that no food grain would remain there because wild boar, jungle fowl and fox consume them all at night. They informed me more that it happened regularly. Later I heard from the floating shop owners who sell pineapples, jackfruits, papaya, guava to the tourists beside the parking place of the park that they dismounts the wastage parts of the fruits at the edge of the parking place and different wildlife regularly consume these leftover foods.
Lawachhara forest has been declared as a National Park in 1996 by the Government of Bangladesh which covered 1250 hectares of forest land. It is situated in Kamalgonj Upazila of Moulvibazar District. It is one of those protected areas in Bangladesh where Hoolock Gibons live. The wildlife diversity at this forest consists of 246 birds, 20 mammals, 17 insects, 6 reptiles and 4 amphibians. The government of Bangladesh launched eco-tourism in this forest in November 2009 which is being managed by Co-management Committee (A management Committee established by the Government with the participant of multilevel stakeholders). The Forest Department and the Co-Management Committee jointly designated the tourism areas featuring hiking trail, nature interpretation centre, picnic spot and vehicle parking. After launching of ecotourism, a huge number of tourists enter the forest to observe the natural beauty and the number is increasing day by day. The below table shows the number of tourist of different categories in last five fiscal years:
Every day, tourist leave huge amount of foods inside the forest though many dustbins are there within short distances. On the other hand, floating shop owners leave unused parts of fruits in this forest. These leftover and waste foods are being used as one of the regular food source by the wildlife especially wild boar and jangle fowl. In near future, I will not be amazed if I hear that a number of wild animals are dying due to health disorder. The food habit of the wildlife might be changed and wildlife may lose their natural habits. No, I never expect this kind of massacre happens in this forest.
Past experience reminds me that during major festivals like Eid tourists create cause much harm to the environment. Immediately several discussions needed to take by the Forest Department and Co-Management Committee for the proper management of ecotourism. It is needed to establish a mechanism where leftover food will be removed immediately from the forest. It is necessary to restrict people’s entry to the forest. We want to keep the forest as a natural habitat for the wildlife without any human disturbance and hopefully proper initiatives will be taken by the management immediately. On the other hand, mass awareness is also needed. Many signboards have been installed by the management authority stating the Do’s and Don’ts. Tourists should follow the instructions.
Palash Sarker, Environmental
Development Worker, Sreemangol, Moulvibazar