I. ENVIRONMENT AND ASSESSMENT OF FLOOD IMPACTS
C. Ecological resources
Bangladesh used to be very rich in tropical forests. The total forest area of the country covers about 13 per cent of the land area which however is under threat of deforestation. There are a total of 12,342 km2 of state forests, of which about 43 per cent is evergreen and about 48 per cent is mangrove. The remaining 9 per cent are moist deciduous forests. In addition, there are 3,573 km2 of unclassified state forests in the country. Brief descriptions of the two main forest areas related to flood control and management are given below:
(a) Mangrove Forest: The Sundarbans, the single largest mangrove forest in the world, spans over the Gangetic floodplain of the south-west region (580,000 ha) and the south-eastern portion of the State of West Bengal in India. The forest is very rich in biotic diversity. Besides, it plays an important role in the economy of the south-west region of Bangladesh as well as in the national economy by producing timber and fuelwood, harvesting of thatching material, honey, bees-wax and fish resources. In addition it provides employment for a large number of people which can reach as high as one million. The Sundarban also acts as a natural barrier to tropical cyclones. It is potentially a major area for tourism development in Bangladesh.
(b) Chakaria forests: These are on the south-eastern coast just south of Chittagong. The species in these forests are more or less the same as in the Sundarbans. However, these have been experiencing very rapid depletion owing to demand for timber and clearing of forests for shrimp farming.