Moves to protect parabans
● Paraban resources cannot be used for any commercial purpose
● Members of ethnic groups can use bamboos and wood for social use taking permission from committees
● Committees give final nod after checking and sorting individual or social needs
● Big trees of the forest that hold water cannot be cut down under any circumstances
Ethnic people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts do not anymore use forest resources – especially trees and wood – indiscriminately.
They cannot use paraban resources for any commercial purpose and take permission from their local committee to cut down trees for use only in building houses and some social functions.
Also, they strictly follow that big trees of the forest that hold water are not cut down under any circumstances.
Their sole aim is to preserve the existing parabans (man-made forests).
With assistance from some NGOs, they have also taken initiatives to create new parabans for the conservation of woodlands and saving themselves from environmental hazards caused by deforestation and destruction of the natural ecosystem.
There are paraban-based committees that give the permission to collect bamboo or wood after checking and sorting individual or social needs.
Md Zia Uddin, project coordinator of paraban project by Tohzindong, a non-government organisation, said they work on eight parabans, educate people about forest conservation and provide financial assistance.
"We provide a bulk allocation to people under parabans so that they can use it for anything to earn money. We also provide high-yielding seeds of vegetables. Moreover, we educate them about the necessity of forestry, the usefulness of various species of trees, including endangered ones," he added.
He added that sometimes poor people cut trees when they need money. So, the organisation continuously monitors if any large tree is felled. Tohzindong also works to ensure the creeks are clean so that people get clean water in the dry season.
There are numerous small and large parabans in seven upazilas of Bandarban with the highest number in Ruma where there are 114 parabans. Besides, there are 32 parabans in Rowangchhari, 25 in Thanchi, 36 in Alikadam, 11 in Lama, seven in
Naikhongchari and six in Bandarban Sadar upazila, said Juamlian Amlai, president of the Bandarban District Committee for the Protection of Forests and Land Rights.
The parabans help various endangered plants to survive, preserve water sources and protect people from the natural disaster.
A paraban ranges from 40 to about 400 acres. According to some surveys, there are 231 parabans, excluding some parabans in the remote and impenetrable areas.
Recently, this correspondent has visited Renikhyong paraban in the Chimbuk hills, a paraban within 12 miles of Chimbuk hill in Bandarban, and saw a social feast was going on where wood as the fuel for cooking came from Renikhyong Paraban.
The organiser of the event, Yangru Mro, told The Business Standard bamboo and wood are no longer available in the forest as before. In big events, their only means of fuelwood is paraban.
Two locals Kouang Mro and Thongpong Mro said helpless people are benefiting more from parabans. For example, lots of bamboo and wood are needed to build a house which poor people cannot afford. They build houses with bamboo, small trees and wood from paraban.
The price of a bamboo varies from Tk30 to Tk60 depending on the size. Apart from building a house, a family is allowed to cut only 200 stalks of bamboo.
On the other hand, extreme water crisis occurs in April and May as most of the water sources dry up. People have to go far to collect water. In this extreme water crisis, water is still available in the creeks of paraban.
There are some trees around where water never dries. Even though the amount of water available there is not enough, it is useful.
Elderly people in the area said even if they wanted to create a paraban, it was not possible now because the places are going to private ownership and the Forest Department. There is not enough space available to create parabans over a large area.
Paya Mro, president of the Renikhyong Paraban Committee, said the paraban was set up in 1995 on 40 acres as a conservation initiative. In addition to various species of bamboo and trees, there are also shrubs. Many disagreed when it came to conservation initiatives. After repeated meetings with the people about the needs of the forest, everyone has agreed to conserve the forest.
Sungsang paraban in Ramu upazila is the oldest and largest paraban in Bandarban which was created by the locals in 1951 on 395 acres of land.
There are karoi, garjan, dharmara, civit, goda, chatim, gutguita, chapalish, champa, fig, forest shimul, chalta, chlorophyll, tun, bon ata (forest sugar apple) and various species of wild trees here. Many trees are extinct or endangered due to lack of natural forest and some endangered trees could not be seen anywhere else but in this paraban.
Bandarban divisional forest officer Farid Mian told The Business Standard there is no alternative to the forest for man and nature. If there is a forest, the sanctuary of animals and wildlife will be more prosperous.
Not only the protection of natural resources, but the hill tribes in the CHT have also taken such initiatives as a part of their tradition. However, there is a need to create more awareness among people about the creation and conservation of parabans, he added.