Bangladesh to plant trees against natural disasters

With two major floods and one cyclone hitting Bangladesh in the last year, the head of the government decided to plant 100 million trees in the next three months to build a natural "wall as a strong deterrent to disaster."


Disaster-prone Bangladesh announced on Saturday that it would plant 100 million trees to create a "natural fence" against frequent floods and cyclones.

The head of the country's military-backed government Fakhruddin Ahmed launched the project in the capital, Dhaka, saying the trees would "fight storms, tidal surges, floods and droughts" in a "natural way."

He appealed to all Bangladeshis to build "a wall of trees in the coastal belt as a strong deterrent to disaster."

"Our main weapon to face these disasters is tree plantation," he said.

Impoverished Bangladesh has suffered numerous natural calamities that have been occurring more frequently in recent years due to global warming, environmentalists say.

The intensity of the storms have also risen in the low-country country where 40 percent of its 144 million people live below poverty level.

The trees will be planted over the next three months during the rainy season, deputy environment minister Raja Debashish Roy told AFP.

"It's the country's biggest-ever planting programme. We've undertaken it to protect our natural calamity-prone country from frequent cyclones and floods that has been exacerbated by climate change," he said.

Last summer the country was hit by two major floods while a cyclone tore through its coastal districts in November, killing at least 5,000 people and leaving tens of millions homeless and desperately short of food.

Environmentalists said the deaths in the storm would have been even greater had not the world's largest mangrove forest stood as a "green bastion" against the cyclone.

Some 1,500 square kilometres (600 square miles) of the 10,000-square-kilometre Sunderbans forest, which straddles Bangladesh and India and is home to the famed Royal Bengal tigers, were badly damaged.

"We will be planting 100 million saplings and we have an estimated 180 million saplings in the nurseries so we won't run short," said forest ministry secretary Rezaul Kabir.

The sapling planting programme is double last year's level, he said.

Kabir said most of the saplings would be planted in the coastal areas to build a "green belt" in the southern districts.

"Like in the Sunderbans, these trees will work as a natural fence against regular storms and tidal surge. It will reduce the number of casualties in natural disasters," he said.

Some 14 percent of the country is covered by forest and trees and the government aims to increase that figure to 20 percent.

Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January 2007 when the military- backed government took power after elections were cancelled following vote-rigging allegations.

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