The Forest Department took up a Tk104.80 crore char afforestation project two years ago, even before the new deltas formed in the Bay.
With a little more than one year in hand before the project completion deadline ends in December next year but over two-thirds of the project target is still unfinished, the department is in a pickle since new chars are not showing up.
The project was taken up without assessing how many chars were there and that laxity now hits back at the project, said the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Ministry of Planning.
The project was aimed at creating mangrove forests on 25,000 hectares of newly risen chars in the southern coastal belt. So far, 8,147 hectares of land have come under the project while the Forest Department is not finding out the remaining areas to complete the project.
On November 9, a meeting led by Chief Conservator of Forests Amir Hosain Chowdhury revealed the updates about the project.
The project is being implemented in nine districts of Chattogram and Barishal divisions planting 4,444 mangroves trees such as Keora, Bain, Kakra and Geowa per hectare, and the afforestation is supposed to be completed by December next year.
About half of the total allocation for the project has been spent so far. Now, the Forest Department has decided to extend it for another year and a half as the afforestation target remains unfulfilled.
The project lacks forestation lands amounting to 2,000 hectares in Noakhali's Companiganj upazila, 500 hectares in Subarna char and 1,000 hectares in Lakshmipur's Ramgati.
The project targeted planting mangrove trees in 11,600 hectares of coastal area in Noakhali. According to the forest department sources, 3,500 hectares of land there could not be brought under afforestation due to the lack of new chars.
Meanwhile, mangrove afforestation was to be carried out in 3,360 hectares of area of Patuakhali district. Afforestation target in this district alone falls by 1,860 hectares of land.
Similarly, new chars could not be found as per project proposal (DPP) in Bhola.
Land falls short for the afforestation project by 50 hectares in Mirsharai, 280 hectares in Banshkhali and 400 hectares in Sitakunda.
Besides, uncertainty looms large over afforestation on 290 hectares of land in Moheskhali of Cox's Bazar and 155 hectares in Kutubdia.
Contacted, Project Director Harunur Rashid told The Business Standard that new chars are not available in some upazilas. "If new chars arise meantime, afforestation will be carried out there under the project. Otherwise, the project deadline will have to be extended," he added.
Under the project, there was a proposal to create 1,000 strip gardens by roads and rail trucks in the coastal areas. So far,747 kilometres of strip gardens have been created. It also aims to plant gardens in 40,000 homes in coastal areas.
Apart from this, the project targeted creating 40,000 gardens on residential blocks in the coastal area while such gardens have been created in 21,514 houses.