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Sunderbans wildlife gets extended sanctuary
The biodiversity boundary has been extended in the Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest. Experts expect the move to help boost all types of forest resources including wildlife, fisheries, and trees.
The government imposes a ban on collection of all types of wild resources from areas designated as 'sanctuaries' in the forest. The forest department has demarcated these sanctuary areas by colouring the trees differently in those areas and blocking the entrance of fishermen, Bawals, and Mowals.
The Sunderbans is the world's largest coastal mangrove forest, straddling the border of India and Bangladesh. The total area of the Sunderbans in Bangare 6,017 Sq kilometres.
According to a new notification issued by the government, over half the Sunderbans' total area falling within Bangladesh is now designated as sanctuary, which will go a long way towards the protection of wildlife in the mangrove forest.
The 'sanctuary' designated areas now add up to 317,950 hectares, over double the 139,699 hectares that was categorised as such over two decades back.
In 1996, the government granted a 139,699-hectare area of the forest sanctuary status, covering 23 per cent of the total area of the forest.
Recently, the government issued a new notification on the expansion of sanctuary areas in different parts of Sunderbans after 21 years. Through this notification, another 178,260 hectares have been added to the existing sanctuary aggregate. That means over half the area of the Sunderbans in Bangladesh has sanctuary status.
Forest Department sources said of the additional 178,000-odd hectares falling under sanctuary, 91,693 hectares had been added in Sunderbans east under the Sarankhola range; 38,339 hectares in the Sunderbans south under the Khulna range and a total of 48,216 hectares area had been added in Sunderbans west, under the Satkhira range.
Md Amir Hossain, forest conservator of Khulna circle, said the government had banned the collection of all types of forest resources from the sanctuary areas. It would help increase the biodiversity of the forest including wildlife and trees.
The birth rate of wild animals ranging from the tiger to the deer and all the birds and fish would increase in the safe sanctuary, Amir Hossain predicted.
Md Mahmudul Hasan, divisional forest officer of Sunderbans east, said the forest department had marked the sanctuary areas of the Sunderbans. Placards and signboards would be hanged at different points within two months. None could enter the sanctuary areas for any forest resource collection, he emphasised.
Even the fishermen, Bawals and Mowals are confined to a mere 12,000 who are allowed to enter the forest for extracting resources under strict monitoring.
Meanwhile, a project titled 'Sunderbans Protection' has been proposed that awaits approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council.
This project would help to engage people near the forest in alternative employment that is not dependent on the depletion of the forest's resources, he informed.
Professor Mahmud Hossain, at the forestry and wood technology department of Khulna University, said the expansion of sanctuary was good news for the Sunderbans as it would reduce ‘human pressure on the forest.’
On the other side of the coin, the forest-dependent traders, fishermen, Bawals and Mowals are not pleased one bit by the expansion of area under sanctuary have been facing extreme poverty, since the expansion of the sanctuary area in Sunderbans.