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Sundarbans biodiversity under threat as water salinity up

Biodiversity 2022-02-13, 11:17pm


Sundarbans-mangrove. File photo.

Bagerhat, Feb 13 -- 'Sundarbans Day' will be observed on Monday as every year since 2002 with an appeal to save the largest mangrove forest in the world.

Virtual discussions have been organized in Bagerhat, Khulna, Pirojpur, Satkhira and Barguna due to covid situations like last year. 

Rafiqul Islam Khokon, executive director of a private development agency 'Rupantor', said the day will be observed with the slogan 'Love the Sundarbans on the World Valentine's Day'.

This time alternative employment for the people dependent on the Sundarbans will be focused on in this event. There is human pressure on forests for livelihood. Local people adjacent to the forest should be involved in different activities to protect the forest, said Chief Forest Conservator Md Amir Hossain Chowdhury.

Sundarbans, a World Heritage site, hosts a complex network of tidal waterways. The forest presents an excellent example of ongoing ecological processes and many of its flora and fauna are unique to this region.

However, salinity in the Sundarbans is increasing due to climate change. Besides, the flow of water in the rivers and canals of the forest is decreasing gradually and several canals of the forest have been filled with silt.

Sundari trees are dying due to excessive salinity. Wildlife is also being affected by various diseases by consuming salt water. In the Sundarbans, wild animals are being hunted and people do fishing by spraying pesticides in rivers and canals which threaten the biodiversity of the Sundarbans.

According to various sources, there are 450 small and big rivers-canals in the Sundarbans. Due to lack of water flow, several small and big canal beds in the Sundarbans have been filled with silt. A variety of wild animals, including tigers and deer, leave the Sundarbans, cross canals, and enter the locality very often and lose their lives.

Muhammad Belayet Hossain, divisional forest officer (DFO) of the Sundarbans East Division, said over 20 canals in the area under the Sundarbans East Division have been filled with silt. Besides, a 30 km area of Bhola river from Jaymoni to Das Bharani, Kharma canal and Aruarber canal has been filled.

In this situation, various demands have been raised at different times to protect the Sundarbans, including celebrating 'Sundarbans Day' nationally. There is also a demand for the formation of a separate ministry for the Sundarbans.

Executive Director of Sundarbans Academy Anwarul Qadir said that they have been demanding the formation of a separate ministry for the management of the Sundarbans to conserve the Sundarbans and improve the living standards of the people living near the forest. He is hopeful that if their demands are met, the fortunes of the forest and its people will improve.

Rafiqul Islam Khokon, executive director of 'Rupantor', said the first National Sundarbans Conference in Khulna ended on 14 February 2001 with the 'Sundarbans Declaration'.

Some 80 organizations including Rupantar, Khulna University, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) jointly organized that conference.

At the conference, it was decided to observe 'Sundarbans Day' on February 14, and asked the government to observe 'Sundarbans Day' nationally.

Since 2002, Sundarbans Academy, Sundarbans Division, various press clubs and various organizations have been observing 'Sundarbans Day' on 14th February in the districts adjoining the Sundarbans.

In the eighteenth century, the area of the Sundarbans was almost double that of today. In 1878, the Sundarbans was declared a protected forest. The Unesco Commission of the United Nations declared three Sundarbans sanctuaries as World Heritage Sites in 1997.

In 2017, the government expanded the sanctuary area in the Sundarbans. Out of the total forest area of 6,01,700 hectares, now the sanctuary area is 3,17,900 hectares. Earlier it was only 1,39,700 hectares.

It has 375 species of wild animals, the Royal Bengal Tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile, the Indian python, and the gangetic dolphins. - UNB