Save Sundarbans, save Bangladesh: Environmentalists call for protecting largest mangrove forest
Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, acts as a natural wall to protect lives, livelihoods, and homes of people living along the coasts of Bangladesh and India from cyclones and storms. But the vital forestland is shrinking due to human actions. Over the last 100 years, Sundarbans has shrank significantly – endangering its biodiversity. Environmentalists and experts shared the information at a discussion in Khulna Press Club recently, marking the Sundarbans Day, and called for proactive public participation to protect the mangrove forest. Read more: Tiger census: Installation of cameras begins in Sundarbans Sundarbans Day is observed in Khulna, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna and Satkhira districts every year since 2002 with an appeal to save the largest mangrove forest in the world. A World Bank report, titled ‘Coping with climate change in the Sundarbans: Lessons from multidisciplinary studies’ (published in 2020), disclosed concerning information on shrinking of the forest area. According to the report, the total area of the Sundarbans (India’s West Bengal and Bangladesh) was 11,904 sqkm between 1904 and 1924. In 1967, it shrank to 11,663 sqkm, and in 2016, to 11,506 sqkm. According to various sources, there are 450 small and major rivers and canals in the Sundarbans. The total length of these canals and rivers is about 350 km. Due to tides, the banks of the rivers are eroded and formed again. Data says that in 100 years, more erosion happened, which cannot be prevented yet. Talking to UNB, Md Nur Alam Sheikh, convener of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (BAPA) Mongla zone, said, “People are continuously occupying the forestland and building homes, markets. The government must adopt a zero-tolerance policy to protect the forest, and law enforcers and forest officials must be strict in stopping encroachment.” Read more: 5 Sundarbans eco resorts to experience world’s largest mangrove forest The Sundarbans – home to numerous plants and wildlife, including the Royal Bengal Tiger – covers an area of 6,017 sqkm in Bangladesh. It was declared a “reserve forest” in 1978. Calling the Sundarbans “saviour of the country during natural disasters,” Chairman of ‘Save the Sundarbans’, Dr Sheikh Faridul Islam, said that the mangrove forest has been protecting the coastal belt for ages acting as a natural shield. “We must ensure Bangladesh is protected through securing the forest,” he said. Prof Dr Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, of Environment Science department of Khulna University, said, “There is no room for doubt… Bangladesh will not survive if the Sundarbans does not survive. All concerned should come forward.” People’s careless behaviour and indifference are the biggest threats to the Sundarbans, said Officer-in-Charge of East Sundarbans Karamjal Tourism Center and Wildlife Breeding Centre, Howladar Azad Kabir, adding that if this continues, there will be no Sundarbans. “Just celebrating Forest Day on February 14 is not enough. Everyone must be aware and come forward to save Sundarbans,” he said.
One held with 20kg venison from Sundarbans
The forest department officials on Thursday evening detained a man with 20kg venison from the Nilkamal area of the Sundarbans in Khulna. The detainee was identified as Hiru Akon of Barguna. Read more: Two sent to jail for possessing deer meat in Bhola Zahirul Islam, in-charge of Nilkamal Wildlife Sanctuary in the Sundarbans, said a patrol team of the forest department detained Akon, "a member of a deer poaching gang," while he along with others was trying to flee the scene after sensing the forest officers' presence. The team also seized a fishing boat, a gun, 19 rounds of bullets, equipment used to trap deer, and sharp weapons. Read more: Venison, deer skin seized in Bagerhat "Akon was sent behind bars Thursday. And legal action will be taken against others," Zahirul said.
An unseen presence: Fear of tiger attack grips 6 villages along Sundarbans
The residents of six villages near the Sundarbans are literally living in fear for their lives as a hundred footprints of two tigers were spotted in Sonatala village of Bagerhat’s Sharonkhola. Two tigers left the Sundarbans and crossed the Bhola river and entered the village early hours of Thursday (January 12) and roamed over an area of about one kilometer of Sonatala village, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans East Division Muhammad Belayet Hossain. Later, the forest department, Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT), Community Patrolling Group (CPG) and villagers searched various areas throughout the day in search of the tigers. However, no tiger was found in that village till Thursday evening, he added. Read more: Tiger census: Installation of cameras begins in Sundarbans The two tigers went back to the forest after roaming different places in that village, claimed the Forest Department after tracing all the footprints the tigers left on the ground. However, villagers were advised to stay on alert, and have just spent an anxious weekend remaining vigilant. With this, tigers have left the Sundarbans and entered the locality more than 50 times in the last 15 years. During this time, both man and tiger have lost their lives due to counter-attacks. Villagers demanded effective measures to prevent tigers from entering the locality. Harun Bhadda of Sonatala village said that he woke up early in the morning and saw hundreds of the unmistakable imprints of the tiger's paw around his house. Ever since seeing them, his entire family has been gripped by fear of tigers. Read More: Panic after tiger strays into Satkhira village In Sonatala village, the Bhola River has almost filled up with silt and has only two to two-and-a-half feet of water. In the Tajur Gate area under the Bhola camp of the Sharonkhola range of the Sundarbans East Division, countless tiger footprints were spotted on the river bed.
16 fishermen held for catching Parshe fries in Sundarbans defying ban
The Forest Department has detained 16 fishermen from the Sundarbans for catching Parshe (mullet) fries, during its breeding period from November-January, from the river and canals defying a ban. A team of Forest Department (West) led by Zahirul Islam, officer-in-charge of Nilkomol Patrol Outpost, detained the fishermen around 4:30am on Thursday during a drive at the Bangabandhur Char area, said Divisional Forest Officer of Sundarbans West Forest Division Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain. They also seized two fishing boats, he added. "A case has been filed under the Forest Act; the fishermen have been sent to Koyra Upazila Senior Judicial Magistrate Court." Read more: 11 kidnapped fishermen rescued in Sundarbans: Police Fishermen of Shyamnagar, Koyra, Paikgacha, and Dakop surrounding the Sundarbans are using illegal nets to catch fish fries. The fishermen illegally catch a large number of fish fries from the Sundarbans' Alor Kol, Dublar Char, Batlurchar, Chachanangla, Poshur, Agun Jala, Kalir Char, Gera Chalki, Bajbaja, Hanshoraj, Andarmanik, Dhangmari; Chichkhali and Majjat rivers. Due to the use of monofilament nets, Parshe fish fries and different species of fish are being killed. Around 20-25 groups of 8-10 fishermen on engine-driven fishing boats are using 200-300-metre long and 40-50-metre wide nets to catch a maund of fish fries of different species in each haul every day. Also, some forest officials tip the fishermen off when their senior officials prepare for conducting a drive in the Sundarbans. Next, the fishermen hide in the forest. And when the drive is over they resume their illegal fishing. Read more: 26 rescued Bangladeshi fishermen return from India Poshur River Waterkeeper Coordinator Md Nur Alam Sheikh said a group of money lenders pay low-income fishermen a lot of money in advance to send them to the Sundarbans to make extra profit with fish fries. Some forest officials and employees are also cooperating with them in exchange for a large amount of money, he added.
Rab launches special drive to free Sundarbans from robbers
Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) have launched a special drive to free the world’s largest mangrove forest, Sundarbans, from robbers – to ensure security of fishermen. A special team named “Elite Tigers” of the battalion launched the drive on Saturday noon through a long range patrolling in Sharankhola, Joymoni, Baroitala, Andarmanik, Mrigamari and others spots. The drive will continue while another team, “Bengal Tigers”, with trawlers is kept standby to response to emergency calls. Robbers abducted 11 fishermen from different areas of the Sundarbans between December 13 and 18. Read more: 11 kidnapped fishermen rescued in Sundarbans: Police Last Wednesday, police claimed that the robbers left the fishermen in the face of their drives. Some of the rescued fisherman, however, claimed that they were released after paying ransom to the abductors. Police denied this claim. Commandant Md Badruzzoha, of Rab-6, said they launched the special drive to bring the robbers, who recently kidnapped fishermen, under the law through identification. Read more: Killing tigers in the Sundarbans: Offenders get off scot-free for lack for evidence “We are determined to free the Sundarbans from the criminals at any cost,” Lt Col Mostak Ahmed, commandant of the Rab-6, said. The Rab officer further said that law enforcers will always stand by the fishermen to provide security.
Counting tigers in Sundarbans: Forest Dept to set up 1,330 cameras under Khulna Range from Jan 1
Bangladesh Forest Department authorities will set up a total of 1,330 cameras at 665 spots in the Sundarbans, under Khulna Range – to count tigers, deer and pigs from January 1, 2023. The Forest Department – under the ‘Sundarbans Tiger Conservation Project’ involving Tk 3.27 crore – has started installing cameras on both sides of the canals under Kalabogi Forest Station of Khulna Range from December 15 and the count will start from January 1 next year. Abu Naser, forest official of Sundarbans East zone and director of the project, said, “Apart from counting tigers, this year, the forest department will count deer and pigs as well under the project. They have divided the project into two categories – camera trapping and canal survey. Primarily, the survey along both sides of the canals in Sundarbans has started and through the process, the movement and pugmarks of tigers will be pointed out.” Through the camera trapping process, the authorities concerned will take snaps for two years and later they will analyse the photos captured for the next two months, and after that they will figure out the numbers, he said. Also read: Tiger population at risk in Sundarbans: 38 tigers died in 20 years in Bangladesh A technical committee has already been formed and the committee decided to install cameras at 665 spots, he added. Of these, 200 will be set up in Satkhira Range, 140 in Khulna Range, 180 in Sharankhola and 145 in Chandpai Range, said Abu Naser. Two cameras will be installed in each grid and a total of 1,330 cameras will be set up. Asked about the number of tigers, the project director said, “The exact figure of tigers will be known after the census. Earlier, it was difficult for tourists to see any tiger during their Sundarbans visit but now, they can take photos of 3-4 tigers which indicates that the number might have increased.” The tiger census will be conducted in and outside the wildlife sanctuary and the authorities concerned will conduct the survey in the less, more and most saline areas of the Sundarbans, he said. Also read: Sundarban tigers: Inbreeding leads to generation of weak, diseased cubs.
Killing tigers in the Sundarbans: Offenders get off scot-free for lack for evidence
The main target of the hunters of the Sundarbans is to kill tigers. Unless they get caught, no one knows how many tigers get killed in the world’s largest mangrove forest that straddles the border of Bangladesh and India. After killing the tigers, hunters and hide traders smuggle the hides and body parts of the big cats out of the country. In most cases, law enforcement agencies fail to find the criminals, and even if they are found, they have to be released due to a lack of proper evidence. According to sources at the forest department, a total of 13 cases have been filed against 59 people for killing tigers in the eastern side of the Sundarbans in the last 21 years, among whom only nine have been apprehended. Read more: Sundarbans to have 4 more eco-tourism centres Trial of six cases has ended till now, and in three of the cases, all the accused have been acquitted due to the forest department’s inability to produce evidence. In the three other cases, a total of seven accused have received jail terms ranging from six months to four and a half years. Currently, seven cases are pending with the court, the forest department said. The size of the Sundarbans is 6,017 square kilometers, including a land area of 4,143 square kilometers. More than half of the Sunderbans is reserved forest area where tigers roam freely. Unfortunately, hunting by the hide traders and effects of climate change has put the lives of the animal in great risks. In 2017-2018 fiscal year, the number of tigers in the Bangladesh part of the mangrove forest was found to be at 114 through camera trapping system. Forest department said that they’ll soon start counting tigers to fix their new number. According to data from the forest department, a total of 28 tigers have either died or have been killed between 2001 and 2022. Among these dead tigers, 14 were killed by hunters, five died due to mob beating, one died in cyclone Sidr and eight others died naturally. These numbers are based on joint or separate drives against hunters by the forest department, Rab and police. During these drives, hides, bones and other body parts of the tigers had been recovered and in rare cases, bodies of dead tigers were found inside the forest. Read more: Sundarban tigers: Inbreeding leads to generation of weak, diseased cubs Among the eight subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct and five are struggling to survive in adverse conditions. The forest department is working round the clock to protect tigers following the government’s special preference and internationally signed protocols. To protect the Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sundarbans, the forest department has taken up a 10-year project titled “Tiger Action Plan”. Habib Talukder, a hunter from Sonatola village under Bagerhat’s Sharankhola upazila, said that he is currently on bail in 10 cases filed against him for killing tigers and deer. “The Bhola river separates my village from the Sundarbans. I've been going to the forest to catch fishes since the age of five. I was in jail for two years in false cases. There are at least 30 people in my village who are involved in hunting tigers. They use poisonous traps and bullets for killing tigers,” Habib said. Prof Dr Md Anwarul Islam, Chief Executive of Wildteam and former Chairman of Zoology department of Dhaka University (DU), said that to stop the killing of tigers, alternative income sources have to be created for the people who currently rely on the Sundarbans for a living. “Social protection nets for people living around the forest have to be created. The forest department also needs trained informers. Most importantly, exemplary punishment has to be given to the hunters and hide traders so that others stay away from the practice,” Anwarul said. Mohammad Belayet Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans East, provided a list of the activities that the forest department is running to stop the killing of tigers. Read more: Tiger recovered from Sundarbans canal most likely died of natural causes “A total of 62 patrol camps, 16 stations and eight patrol teams are working inside the forest round the clock to ensure safe roaming of the tigers. Besides, co-management committees (CMC), community patrol groups (CPG) and village tiger response teams (VTRT) are also working to prevent the killing of tigers,” said Belayet. Belayet added that they’re ensuring protection of the tigers by excavating canals and rivers running through the forest, making fences on the borders of the forest using nylon ropes and taking preventive measures to save tigers during natural disasters.
Bagerhat's Dublar Char abuzz as fish drying season begins
Fishermen and hired hands in Dublar Char, close to the Sundarbans, are busy drying fish. Catches have been good, and hopes are high. Over 10,000 fishermen have already reached Dublar Char as fish drying is on in full swing. Fish drying season started on October 29 and will continue till February 28. The Forest Department expects to earn Tk 5 crore revenue from dried fish processing this fiscal. Dried fish, or shutki, have a shelf life of several months and is considered a delicacy not only in Bangladesh but also in several countries where they are exported. Also read: Dublar Char comes alive as Sutki fish season gets underway
5 Sundarbans eco resorts to experience world’s largest mangrove forest
Beyond the luscious greenery and eye-soothing forestry, Sundarbans is also the largest mangrove forest in the world. Situated in the southwestern end of Bangladesh, the forest comprises over 10,000 square kilometers of unaltered forest. Of this, over 6,000 square kilometers are situated in Bangladesh part. Every year, there’s a high influx of tourists in the post-monsoon and early winter seasons. Naturally, several eco-parks and resorts have been built to cater to the growing number of tourists each year. Let’s look at some of the best eco-resorts in Sundarbans which can be an ideal stay for your visit to the world’s largest Mangrove forest. 5 Popular Eco Resorts in Sundarban Harbaria Eco Park The first one on the list is Harbaria Eco Park. The place was first established as a tourism center back in 2010. Subsequently, the area was expanded to make way for the eco-park. The place itself is situated deep within the forest area on the opposite bank of the Sundarbans. Read Sundarbans reopens to tourists, fishermen after 3 months Tourists can easily visit the eco-park from the Mongla Port downstream through the Rupsha river. There is a large open area to embrace the scenic beauty of the Sundarbans. Moreover, the wanderlusts can easily hop onto one of the watch towers of Sundarbans to experience the surrounding majestical panoramic views. Iraboti Eco Resort and Research Center Iraboti Eco Resort offers some of the best cottage experiences in the greater Sundarban Area. Moving away from the main Rupsha river, the cottage is nestled upstream on the Goran tributary. Read Sundarbans to have 4 more eco-tourism centres The resort itself also serves as a research center for Sundarban wildlife. On the river end, several cottages are arranged facing the deep jungle of Sundarban right across the river. The cottage also has its own boats for touring the mangrove forest. The tourists can easily spot hordes of monkeys and deer as they move along the bank. And if it's a lucky day, the travellers might even see the royal Bengal Tiger. Iraboti has a standard package of single cottage housing 4 people for 4000 BDT per day. The rate is standard for all the cottages with food expenses charged separately. Read Sundarbans tourism: Now focus on automation to improve services
Sundarbans to have 4 more eco-tourism centres
Tourist spots in the country’s southern districts, including the Sundarbans and the historic Shat Gombuj Mosque, are seeing sizeable flow of tourists as travelling has become easy after Padma Bridge opened. The Forest Department is going to open four more eco-tourism centres in the Sundarbans to manage the growing number of tourists. Muhammad Belayet Hossain, divisional forest officer of Sundarbans East Zone, said the mangrove forest is seeing a sharp rise in the number of tourists after the inauguration of Padma Bridge. Read: Sundarbans reopens to tourists, fishermen after 3 months Four new eco-tourism centres are being set up in Alibanda, Andharmanik, Shekhertek and Kalabagi to handle the growing tourist flow. There are already seven eco-tourism centres at Karamjal, Herbaria, Kalagachia, Katka, Kochikhali, Dubla and Heron Point for tourists visiting the Sundarbans. Tourists can visit the three centres in Karamjal, Herbaria and Kalagachia with a fixed entry fee and they have to return within the day. Read “RAB freed Sundarbans from robbers and inspired a quality film”