Published:  01:16 AM, 02 December 2019

Sundarbans: The natural shield of Bangladesh

Sundarbans: The natural shield of Bangladesh

The Sundar-bans is the largest mangrove forest or saline forest in the world. The total area of the Sundarbans is about 10,000 square kilometer, which spans between Bangladesh and India.

The size of the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans is 6,017 sq. km, which is 60-65% of the total area. The Sundarbans on the Bangladesh side spreads over Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Patuakhali, and Barguna districts. In 1987 UNESCO recognized Sundarbans as a World Heritage Site.

In fact, the Sundarbans is a forest that is not only beautiful to see but also rich in natural diversity. It is the mangrove or coastal forest that protects the coast of Bangladesh like a coastal greenery shield. It plays a vital role in preventing the salinity of the land, protecting the balance by preventing pollution of the environment, and also acts as a watchman to protect the country from various natural disasters.

Moreover, it helps Bangladesh develop economically. For example, the forest is considered as a source of raw materials for various industries, source of revenue (about 45%) of the government and the source of income of the 2 million local people and also a treasure trove of tourism. Undoubtedly it is a blessing for Bangladesh.

The world calls the Amazon forest as the lung of the earth for making up about 20 percent of the world's oxygen. Likewise, we can call the Sundarbans as the lung of Bangladesh.

This is because the Sundarbans is doing the same job for the country. Besides, the Sundarbans serves as a shield to protect the coastal area from the cyclone. Steel can't understand the matter! To illustrate "think there is a wall in front of your house. Because of that, the flood water and the breeze will not enter your house."

For instance, the Sundarbans has protected the coast as the natural shield for Bangladesh from severe damage from the cyclone 'Bulbul' hit in the night of November 9 this year.

It hit Satkhira Upazila adjacent to the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and then flowed over Khulna and Bagerhat parts of the Sundarbans. Many fear that without this forest the coast could have caused a great uproar. Due to the Sundarbans, the winds of the cyclone were interrupted and reached the Khulna and Bagerhat at relatively low speeds.

For the southwestern coast of Bangladesh, the Sundarbans has been doing just that from the past. This forest has protected the coast from the great destruction.  When the speed of the cyclones in the forest is constant at 100 km per hour, the momentum becomes breeze by losing power when crossing the forest.

Then they get weak and go to the locality. Likewise, the tidal wave also obstructs by the Sundarbans before effect the coastal area. As a result, many severe damages are reduced.

It should be noted that the forest protected the coast from the great natural calamities from cyclone Cedar on November15, 2007 and the cyclone Ayala on May 25, 2009. The Sundarbans has repeatedly done this job and will continue to do so to prevent strong cyclones.

But, it is a matter of regret that, today Sundarbans also constantly being ruined like Madhupur, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Shalban Bihara by some unscrupulous and indiscreet people. People are destroying Sundarbans and its natural diversity for many reasons and in many ways. Most of the reasons are human-created.

Peoples are destroying it because they are heavily dependent on the forest for their livelihood. Negative natural and anthropogenic impacts and overexploitation of natural resources have caused severe damage to the ecosystem of Sundarbans. Moreover, growing human population with few alternative livelihood opportunities poses a serious threat to the mangrove forest.

Also the rapidly expanding shrimp farming industry is a significant threat to the mangrove forests. Besides, the forest is facing a serious threat due to the arbitrary cutting of trees by people.

Unscrupulous forest workers and some local greedy people, the Government's indifferent attitude, lack of required skilled workforce, fire in the forest, and most importantly miss management of water ways of the Sundarbans etc are also considered as the causes of the destruction of this forest besides natural causes.

Despite these, the Sundarbans has survived many battles. But now he has no chance of surviving on his own. Because now his enemy is bigger and more aligned. Bangladesh is going to have a thermal power plant of 1320 MW, just 14 km away from Sundarbans.

However, environment and ecology expert's predictions that the plant will release many toxic gases which may put Sundarban at grave risk and that will hurt the environment of the country. In that case, the amount of natural disaster (Cedar, Ayala, etc.) damages could be increased by 5-10% without the Sundarbans.

Though, the government rejects the allegations that the coal-based power plant would adversely affect the world's largest mangrove forest. According to the government, controversy over the power plant and its impact on the Sundarbans was 'not based on facts,' and the plant will not negatively affect the mangrove forest because the emission of greenhouse gas will be kept at the minimum level.

However, we need to protect Sundarbans otherwise our next generation will lose the opportunity to breathe in pure air. But the question is, "how we should protect Sundarbans from the destructions?" It is one of the biodiversity and geological features of the region. The Sundarbans not only act as a safety net to protect the coastal areas from disaster but also ensured the livelihood of the people of the coastal region. Bangladesh has to take the highest steps to protect the Sundarbans.

The writer is master's student at the Department of Public Administration, Comilla University

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