In a desperate move to protect the fast depleting tiger population in the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans, the Forest Department has proposed the government to impose a ban on accessing all kinds of resources of the mangrove forest for one year, reports UNB.
Though the move will put the livelihood of about 35 lakh forest-dependent people in dire straits, the officials of the Forest Department have chalked out a Tk 700 crore project to provide them with alternative income-generating opportunities and other supports during the one-year-ban.
The main rationale for the plan is to prevent pirates from entering the forest as its officials claim the pirates are used to enter the forest in the guise of fishermen or honey collectors and have long been involved in ‘tiger poaching’.
However, people will be able to enter the Sundarbans on tourism purpose with permission, the department proposed.
Talking to UNB, Conservator of Forest (Khulna Circle) Dr Sunil Kumar Kundu said they have recently sent the proposal to the Environment and Forest Ministry for a one-year ban on accessing any kind of resource in the Sundarbans and the ministry is to decide that in a meeting expected to be held on November 15 next.The Forest Department has also proposed launching a project, titled ‘Sundarban Surakkha’, to provide various supports to the those whose livelihoods will be affected by the proposed ban, he added.
Conservator of Forest (Wildlife and Nature Conservation Circle) Tapan Kumar Dey said though the pirates in the past were mainly involved in attacks on the boats and trawlers of the fishermen and honey collectors of the forest, they have recently become much active in the smuggling of tiger hide from the forest.
Tapan also observed that the ban will enable the department to stop the entry of the pirates in the guise of fishermen and honey collector.
Even if they enter through dodging the watch, they will not be able to stay in the forest for long due to shortage of food, he pointed at in favour of the proposed ban.
Meanwhile, Chief Conservator of Forest Dr Md Yunus Ali at a recent workshop in Bagerhat said the government is going to form a ‘Wildlife Crime Control Unit’ with members of various agencies, including the Forest Department, Navy, Coast Guard and Border Guard Bangladesh very soon.
Expressing his doubt over the protection of the remaining tiger population in the Sundarbans with the existing capacity of the Forest Department, Chief Executive of Wild Team, a wildlife conservation organisation, Prof Md Anwarul Islam told UNB that the department needs to increase the patrol in the forest to save the tigers.
Besides, the people living on the forest should be provided with alternative income-generating opportunities, and there should be greater awareness campaign among them, he said.
Prof Anwarul also recommended that the government should first undertake a study before imposing any long-term ban as it involves many aspects related to the ecosystem,
There are many resources in the forest which will rot if they are not collected at regular intervals, he noted.
According to the Forest Department data, at least 49 tigers were killed in last 14 years (2001-2014) since the illegal poaching of wildlife and tiger-human conflict is on the rise in the Sundarbans, the country’s only natural tiger habitat with a range of 6,017 square kilometers.
The tiger population in Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, has sharply declined to 106 from 440 in 2004, showed a joint tiger census of Bangladesh and India in 2015.