Kamalchhori villagers in Bangladesh noticed that the water holes in the area's forests had dried up due to deforestation and heavy exploitation of the region's timber. Thus, during dry spells, city dwellers often had no choice but to leave. Thanks to a community-led reforestation effort, the city has reliable access to its water supply once again. Also, the project has given people in the city new ways to get long-term financial help.
To put it another way, forests are life-giving. People who depend on forest products or live in the forest itself are vested in keeping it healthy for all its inhabitants. However, this goal can be achieved as long as the forest is managed responsibly. People who depend on forest resources can suffer a lot when they are taken away.
Those living in Kamalchhori, a village in the Chittagong Mountains of Bangladesh, faced this reality after years of drought dried up their springs and water holes. The villagers' forefathers remembered a time when the springs provided water even during extended droughts. However, as years passed and winter droughts continued, the water holes in the forests eventually dried up. During the worst drought, many people left their homes searching for water. A handful of curious locals stayed behind to figure out what had happened to the water supply after it mysteriously vanished.
There was no ambiguity about the response. Springs were full of water where forests were still standing, but they dried up in places where people had used up the forest's resources. It kicked off a massive effort to restore the woods in the region.
The majestic Chittagong Mountains are located in southeast Bangladesh and are home to various animal and plant species. Eleven different indigenous groups call the mountain forests and their abundance of wildlife home. Villages in Bangladesh have expanded over the mountains in recent decades, increasing the pressure on land and infrastructure. The forests in Chittagong are in a precarious position due to illegal logging, which is being done to make way for other uses, such as agricultural land.
The villages of Chittagong are quite emerging, and with the presence of humans often comes a higher demand for resources such as timber, bamboo, firewood, and building materials. The necessary materials are located right outside the front door. Therefore, the older population of the cities still has memories of how the forests could once contribute the required resources all year round. Precisely these tales gave the people of Kamalchhori reason to believe that there must be a specific reason for the lack of water, which set in motion the initiative to get the water back to the village.
A group was assembled to figure out how to restore the forest's water supply after the city's destructive practices had depleted it. Stopping the cutting down of trees was priority number one.
Finding economically and socially sustainable alternatives to incomes for those whose livelihoods consisted of depleting the forest of resources was essential, as was stopping deforestation. Therefore, grants were made available to help people get their farms, gardens, and livestock off the ground. In addition, eleven households were given one hectare of forestland to farm on a subsistence basis in exchange for their agreement to maintain forest protection. The working group also replanted trees indigenous to the area in the deforested areas to restore the forest.
To begin with, the village residents funded the project, who each contributed a small amount to a revolving fund every month. After a large donation from an environmental group in the area, the village's budget grew even more. Projects like the one in Kamalchhori demonstrate how to derive benefits from forests without jeopardizing their health. Sustainability on both social and environmental scales is easily achievable in the forestry industry.