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Ratargul forest still awaits co-management system

Ratargul freshwater swamp forest.	— FE Photo Ratargul freshwater swamp forest. — FE Photo

SYLHET, Nov 27: Even a year after the decision was taken, the authority concerned couldn't establish the much-talked co-management system on the country's lone swamp forest 'Ratargul' for its proper maintenance.
Two committees were formed over a year ago for the purpose and detail management programme were prepared, sources said, adding, the tourism-friendly system would also help sustaining the site's eco-system as a whole.
Sylhet divisional forest officer, RSM Monirul Islam, said on Monday, some initiatives were taken last year but the proposed management plan is under the process of approval from the ministry concerned.
Habitat of different rare species of plants and wildlife, the 'Ratargul Swamp Forest' was declared 'Special bio-diversity conservation area' on May 31, 2015 through a gazette notification by the Ministry of Forest Environment.
Under a special project named Climate Resilient Environment and Livelihood (CREL), assisted by the UNDP, an organisation named CSRS would provide technical assistance for the purpose.
Prime objective of the programme is to protect the rare resources as well as to involve the local stakeholders with sharing of revenue earned under the new arrangement. Indiscriminate movement of visitors to the site would however, be stopped, the official said.
Under the programme, limited visitors would be allowed through ticket for visiting the 'buffer zone' only while the 'core zone' would remain protected. The site would be protected through netting and digging canal, the official added, watch tower has already been set so that some visitors, don't need to enter into the main area. They would see things from outside free of cost.
Parking area, Information centre, ticket counter etc would be set outside the forests and billboards had been set around for all, the DFO added.
The 19-men executive body of co-management committee was formed with the Forest's Range Officer as member-secretary and the local lawmaker, DFO and upazila chairman would be the advisors. The draft of co-management plan is still awaiting final approval from the ministry.
About 26 kilometers from Sylhet, Ratargul is a freshwater swamp forest in Gowainghat upazila. It is only of its kind in Bangladesh and one of the few freshwater swamp forests in the world.
The evergreen forest is situated by the river Gowain and linked with the canal Chenger khal. Most of the trees growing here are the Koroch trees. The forest goes under 20-30 feet water during the rainy season while rest of the year the water level is about 10 feet deep.
After being grabbed by groups during the last decades, the wetland Ratargul swamp forest is about 504 acres only now.
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