Category: The Sundarbans.

Pollution threatens the Sundarbans

Khalilur Rahman

The world’s largest mangrove forest – the Sundarbans – now faces serious threat to its ecosystem following dumping of huge industrial and household wastes into the river Bhairab that flows through it. Burnt oil from all sorts of vessels plying in the Bhairab has further aggravated the situation. Moreover, the government plan to set up a coal-run power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat, a shipyard and a silo at Chandpai area will cause considerable damage, according to Green activists, to the forest.

Gross human interference and natural calamities continue to deal serious blow to the Sundarbans which covers an area of 6,017 square kilometres south of Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira districts along the Bay of Bengal. Untreated wastes from various industries, garbage from hospitals and disposal of sewage from Khulna city into the Bhairab river are taking place round the clock. On the other hand, huge quantities of solid and liquid wastes from the costal districts of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat and Mongla sea-port are damaging the ecosystem.

Last week Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Save the Sundarbans, Centre for Human Rights Movement and Farmland Protection Committee (FPC) jointly organized a roundtable on “The Effect and Imperatives of Rampal Thermal Power Plant on the Sundarbans” in the city. The environmentalists at the meeting voiced concern over the government plan to set up a thermal power plant with a capacity of 1320 megawatt, a shipyard and a silo in Bagerhat region which, if implemented, will cause damage to the Sundarbans.

Large-scale felling of trees will be required to implement the project which will threaten the survival of wildlife in the Sundarbans. Referring to the proposed coal-based power plant, they demanded relocation of these projects to other places far from the forest. The BAPA general secretary, Dr. M Abdul Matin said sulphur dioxide and excessive amount of carbon would increase the greenhouse effect and may cause acid rain in the Sundarbans.

The forest was badly affected in cyclone Sidr and Aila in 2007 and 2009. The number of tigers in the Sundarbans are fast decreasing as poachers in connivance with a section of unscrupulous forest department officials continue to kill those. Shortage of sweet water and food after cyclonic storms Sidr and Aila battered the Sundarbans has also gravely affected the wildlife. Forest department sources say 440 tigers including 221 adults now inhabit the Sundarbans. The number of the Royal Bengal Tigers is decreasing gradually in the absence of a comprehensive plan to protect them.

Organised gangs of poachers are active in the Sundarbans. About 15 tiger skins were recovered from November 20 of 2001 to February 16 this year from different parts of the Sundarbans. Recovery of four skulls, three skins and 31 kilogram of bones of tigers from one Jamal Fakir at Banglabazar under Sarankhola upazila of Bagerhat district on February 16 led to intensified vigilance by forest officials to protect the tigers. Poacher Jamal Fakir in a confessional statement in the court on February 17 last admitted that he had killed the Royal Bengal Tigers by poisoning. Jamal Fakir was arrested under section 26(1) of the forest act. The law provides punishment for a period of six years in jail and fine of Taka 50,000 only. In order to stop poaching, stringent law with its proper implementation is necessary.

The Sundarbans, natural habitat for over 400 species of trees and about 250 wild animals including spotted deer, some of which are on the verge of extinction, is a source of living for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly in the south-western coastal belt. Above all, the Sundarbans constitutes about 4% of the country’s total forest area. A country should have 25% forest area. Bangladesh has only 16% forest area and the Sundarbans alone covers almost half of it. We know that global climate change has caused serious environmental damage. Therefore, we must understand the importance of the Sundarbans which has been declared a world heritage site by UNISCO and try to protect it from all sorts of human interferences.

It is difficult to maintain vigilance over the vast forest area, criss-crossed by innumerable rivers and canals, by law enforcers and forest officials alone. As such mass awareness among the people, particularly those who are living in large number of villages adjoining the forest, is essential. Side by side, the forest department guards require proper training and modern transports to nab poachers. It is the duty of all to preserve the world heritage site for the sake of our survival.

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Category: The Sundarbans