Deforestation is a severe threat in the context of climate change and the establishment of protected forest areas is a crucial strategy to conserve and manage forests. This study aims to investigate the impact of betel leaf cultivation on the protected forest area known as the Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern coastal area of Bangladesh. The research objectives were to describe the extent of betel leaf cultivation in and around the protected forest area, determine its impact on the forest and describe the socioeconomic factors affecting the cultivation. Data were collected from 2015 to 2017 covering 4622 households in the Teknaf upazila (upazila is an administrative unit). Satellite images were analyzed to determine the impact of cultivation on the forest. Among the factors analyzed the determinants of betel leaf cultivation, family size, occupation and encroachment in the forest were found to have a significant impact. This study identified 4273 paan boroj (betel leaf cultivation plots) covering an area of 250.74 ha, among which 1264 were found inside the forest area occupying 59.76 ha forestland. The average size of a paan boroj was 0.06 ha and in total required 1.32 tons of wooden poles from the forest. Over dependency by local people for their livelihood on forest resources is creating pressure on the protected forest and causing severe deforestation. Sustainable resource use, for example, following a tree-based agroforestry system and adopting more sustainable approaches for betel leaf cultivation, can reduce the deforestation inside the protected forest and conserve biodiversity.
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