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The Financial Express

Japan's 'green voyage' to space


PHOTO: SUMITOMO FORESTRY, JAPAN PHOTO: SUMITOMO FORESTRY, JAPAN

While Japan is set to show the world a highly laudable, and also innovative, use of wood, Bangladesh is still engaged in erasing indiscriminately its green leftovers. Although it may sound incredible to almost everyone, Japan is working on wooden satellites to be sent to space, purportedly to save the earth's biosphere from the satellites' debris. A lot of them have been proven harmful to living beings including humans. The special feature of wooden satellites is said to be its ability to burn up in space and reduce to ashes, as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere. In all such cases, the satellites release aluminium-dominant refuses after breaking down. In the process, the metal emits seemingly unending volumes of aerosols which cause damage to the ozone layer.

The Japanese venture of the future amply proves the nation's deep concern for human wellbeing. Being a nation loving nature, and protecting the environment, Japan's attempt to send wooden satellites goes with it innately. Upon learning about the information, environment-conscious people in Bangladesh might feel like taking an in-depth look at the nation's attitude towards environment. In fact, they need not go deeper. When it comes to environment, especially the woodlands or forests, a picture becomes conspicuous: the brazen destruction of trees. Apart from those in the human habitats, particularly along the roads, reserve forests are also not spared. The practice of felling trees indiscriminately has been in place for long. It has been on a distressing increase in the recent decades. The purpose is clear --- expansion of urban ambience to the sylvan and rural pockets of the country. Thanks to the continued whistle-blowing by the environmental activists and media campaigns, the persons behind the countrywide tree felling cannot remain incognito. Lately, it has become clear which segments of people are indulging in the misdeed. Like seen in the case of river encroachment, it is the political and social heavyweights who normally employ syndicates to the task of clearing swathes of forests. On being backed by these 'influential` people, rackets of unscrupulous elements, at one time, begin felling trees with least care for public outcry.

Of late, the ministries concerned have been seen recovering lands, reserve forests, wildlife sanctuaries from illegal possession. The all-out efforts to take under their control the lands belonging to the state as well as the state's tree properties are praiseworthy. But there are flip sides. The apparent urgency and force in which the campaigns start do not take much time to lose steam. This spectacle has become integral to the eviction drives. Lost reserve forests thus brought under control again eventually remain neglected for years. Land grabbers keep biding time, and stealthily advance on the targeted plots. In the interior and inaccessible parts of the forest-covered districts, hundreds of acres of land have continued to pass into private possessions. Had the forest resources and the wildlife thriving there been utilised to enrich the land's biodiversity, these 'adversely possessed' lands would have remarkably halted the nation's environmental decay. Bangladesh is a country strange to the calamity of wildfire. Its only disaster uprooting trees in forests comes in the form of cyclones. The land's miserable percentage of average forest cover, far below the mandatory 25 per cent of a country, can thus be blamed on the indiscriminate wiping of its plant resources. Thanks to the occasional state initiatives and individual efforts born of love for trees, social forestry has lately changed the look of many areas in the country.

Apart from the private construction sector, sections of the government agencies are also now found clearing vast tracts of forests to make space for one or another large concrete structure. Such acts by any otherwise tree-friendly nation only confound the environmental activists. People in this country are, by nature, tree-loving. Be they home compounds, roadsides or fallow lands, people once would waste little time to plant trees in those areas. As a result, the Bangladesh villages in the past used to give the look of dense patches of green from distance. These scenarios are rare in many countries. Apart from the massive construction projects on the two sides of a mid-forest highway, Bangladesh villages are increasingly joining the trend of erecting brick-built homes. Eventually, the once-lush hamlets may one day wear the look of arid and lifeless concrete jungles. With the advent of the 20th century, the clearing of dense, pristine forests emerged as a dominant trend globally, Bangladesh being no exception. In the fight between man and forest, the former became victorious. The confrontation was uneven. Humans were equipped with axes and scores of tree-felling equipment. Later, heavy machinery entered the scene. The plant world had no option except letting them disappear overnight. Who can imagine that large parts of a city comprised deep forests 3 to 4 centuries ago?

Compulsive developers of the past would lay the first brick at a forest site with one hand, his other hand holding an axe. In the process, the human encroachment on woodlands continued to gain pace. Woefully enough, even reserve forests are not spared in Bangladesh. The Japanese venture to build wooden satellites may appear to a section of activists an anti-environment act. It's because for the project they have to use a certain type of wood. It comes from the one and only source --- trees. Japan apparently has no great space ambition like that of US or Russia --- and, lately, of China or India. Moreover, one has to ponder how many weather or communications satellites Japan is set to place in space. The number must not equal that of the other countries. The positive aspect is, by using wooden satellites Japan is helping save the earth's environment in a novel way. In the near future, Japan might be regarded as a pioneer of the 'green voyage' to space.

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