Sep 22

Tree Plantation Drive 2014: “Terrorists” working for the environment?

The World Environment Day, celebrated every year on the 5th of June, is commemorated worldwide to raise awareness on environmental issues, especially conservation of the environment amid serious concerns due to the phenomenon of climate change. Taking into account the omnipresent vulnerable position of Bangladesh in light of rising sea levels and fast melting ice in the Himalayas and the two hemispheres, the World Environment Day, like every year, remains a harbinger of worrying news for this low lying nation of 160 million plus.

A recent report of UK Department for International Development (DFID) of 2007 presents a bleak picture of Bangladesh by 2030.   The Report predicts that the population will be nearly 200 million by 2020, with 40% under the age of 15 years of age. An additional 6-8% of Bangladesh will be permanently under water and flood-prone areas will increase (from 25% to 40% by 2050). At present, a severe cyclone strikes Bangladesh every three years, and the country faces serious monsoon inland flooding that may submerge over 60% of the country every 4 to 5 years. In a changing climate, Bangladesh is likely to experience higher-intensity cyclonic storm surges and heavier, more erratic monsoon flooding. The World Bank Report in March 2012 estimates that monsoon floods will affect an additional 2 million people by inundating new areas due to climate change. For cyclonic storm surges, currently 8 million people in the coastal area are vulnerable to inundation depths greater than 3 meters and this number will increase to 13.5 million by 2050. In addition, another 9 million people are expected to be exposed to inundation depths above 3 meter due to climate change.

Furthermore every year 200,000 people are reportedly displaced from their lands due to river erosion. The sea –rise may submerge about 17% of Bangladesh territory in the south displacing about 23 million people. World Vision Chief Economist, Brett Parris reportedly said that “climate poverty” in Bangladesh is on the rise and stated: “We are seeing a convergence of climate change and poverty that is reducing the ability of poor communities to grow crops, access water and house and feed themselves.”[1]

Bangladesh has been implementing 106 projects, through government and a few selected NGO bodies, to address climate change including better adaptation and mitigation. Most of the projects and plans in place hinge primarily on the willingness of the government in execution of such plans, and are more often than not simply disaster relief and management initiatives. Whereas world organisations pump millions into state coffers to help the country combat climate change, the developments on ground usually do not add up, courtesy of wide scale corruption, diversion of funds by the state or simply inability to effectively spend the cash.

Towards a solution

Its a no-brainer that combating climate change needs to be part of a social movement, and the general observation is that such a movement is simply not taking shape. River and wetlands encroachment, destruction of wildlife habitats, destruction of the natural landscapes by methods such as hill cutting, etc are rampant problems in the country, and are in fact carried out with the explicit knowledge and consent of the administration.

Going back to a need for a social movement, it is imperative that political forces in Bangladesh play a leading role in bringing about and leading such a movement. Sadly, looking at the players on the political fray, especially a heavily corrupt government and a toothless opposition, that may just not be an option on the cards. This leaves the young generation a huge responsibility to take upon their shoulders.

Some Youth Lead from the Front

They are young, energetic and meritorious. They are organized. And they have a dream. Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir, in realization of its mission of “Building honest, efficient and patriotic citizenry for a prosperous Bangladesh”, declared a week long “Tree Plantation Drive” from the 10th-16th of June, 2014. The organisation mobilized thousands of its activists, meritorious students from all over Bangladesh, in a week long plantation drive, where all members were encouraged to plant and distribute medicinal plants and tree saplings.

Shibir also conducted awareness rallies all over the country, distributed stickers, leaflets and held seminars to raise awareness against deforestation and forest area encroachment in the country. [2][3]

So what about the IHS Jane report of Shibir being the 3rd largest terrorist organisation in the world? Although I have previously tried to address the issue of Shibir being a “terrorist group” using common sense,  I find that the more I delve into the activities of Shibir, the more I believe that IHS Jane was talking gobbledygook.

Below are photo albums of the nationwide event “Tree Plantation Drive” by Shibir from 10th to 16th June.

Central President Abdul Zabbar inaugurates Tree Plantation Drive 2014





Dhaka City

Chittagong Division



Other locations throughout Bangladesh


1. Dhaka Courier, June 5th 2014, World Environment Day-2014

2. Central Shibir Website news, Shibir President inaugurates Week-long ‘Tree-Plantation Drive’

3. Official Bangladesh Islami Chatra Shibir page, রাজধানীসহ সারাদেশে ছাত্রশিবিরের সপ্তাহ ব্যাপি বৃক্ষরোপণ