Human Ecology of Deforestation in Bangladesh
Michael E. Emch
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with approximately 120 million people living in a 144,000 square kilometer area; this is approximately the same size as the state of Iowa in the United States. Approximately 7,300 square kilometers of land area in Bangladesh is re- served forest, which can be classified as mangrove, hill, or plain land forests. Population increases have caused extreme demands on forest resources re- sulting in the forests being rapidly depleted throughout the country.
Deforestation is a complex problem to understand. In Bangladesh defores- tation is the result of a large, predominantly poor population interacting with its environment. This chapter includes deforestation case studies of the three largest forest areas in Bangladesh. The first case study area is a mangrove forest in the southwest of the country called the Sunderbans. It is the largest mangrove forest in the world and is the home of the royal Bengal tiger. The second case study area is the hill forests of southeast Bangladesh, which is within the Chittagong Hill Tracts region. The Chittagong Hill Tracts region recently experienced a war and is home to many of Bangladesh's ethnic mi- norities. Many of these groups practice slash-and-burn agriculture. The third case study area is the plain land forest in north central Bangladesh. This area is one of the last remaining forests within the core population area of Bangla- desh. Each of the case studies is unique in the ways humans interact with their environment.
This study provides essential forest cover information for Bangladesh by using satellite sensors. It also quantifies deforestation from 1988 to 1997 in the largest forest reserves in the country. Satellite imagery is a common source