UNESCO praised government’s initiative in protecting Sundarbans. -Environment Minister

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Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md. Shahab Uddin said, in recognition of the government’s work under the visionary leadership of Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the protection of the World Heritage Site Sundarbans, in the 45th extended meeting of the highest policy-making council of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, the initiative of the Bangladesh government in the last decade has been commended. Appreciated. The meeting expressed support for Bangladesh’s continued efforts to enhance the protection of Sundarbans World Heritage assets by adopting effective conservation measures through planned afforestation. The decision to phase out six coal-fired power plants as part of the Nationally Determined Contribution has been welcomed.

On Wednesday (04 October) in the meeting room of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the Environment Minister said these things in a press briefing about the various initiatives and successes of the present government in the protection and development of the Sundarbans as a World Heritage Site.

Shahab Uddin said that the World Heritage Committee has praised Bangladesh for preparing the Strategic Environmental Management Plan in 2021 for the purpose of reducing the impact of development activities on the Sundarbans. The Committee meeting commended Bangladesh for adopting the National Oil and Chemical Spill Contingency Plan 2020 during the difficult times of Covid-19 and implementing it to mitigate the possible adverse effects in emergency situations. Joint management activities in the Indian and Bangladeshi parts of the Sundarbans for biodiversity development have been welcomed and further strengthening of these activities has been requested.

The minister said that cutting, buying and selling, using and transporting trees has been banned by the government till 2030 in order to preserve the Sundarbans and its biodiversity. 53.52 percent of the total area of the Sundarbans protected area has been banned from all types of resource extraction. The government has banned the collection of all types of forest products and the entry of tourists into the Sundarbans during the three months of June, July and August, the main breeding season for wildlife. Due to the closure of the Ras Mela from 2021, there was no incident of deer hunting in the Sundarbans as before and there was no adverse impact on the environment of the Sundarbans.

Shahab Uddin said, Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan 2018-2027 has been formulated for the purpose of tiger conservation. Tiger survey, animal survey on tiger hunting, construction of 60 km long nylon fence in the area adjacent to the locality to resolve tiger-human conflict, construction of high mounds for wildlife shelter during floods and other tiger research activities are being implemented.

The Forest Minister said that the government has introduced smart patrolling system in Sundarbans and through it significant success has been achieved in suppressing various crimes in Sundarbans. From January 2018 to June 2023, 2 thousand 498 criminals were apprehended and 1169 trawlers/vessels were seized through smart patrolling. 4 new ponds have been dug and 84 existing ponds have been re-dug to provide drinking water to various wildlife in Sundarbans. The useless telecommunication system has been re-established in various camps, stations, ranges of the forest department inside the Sundarbans. Strengthening co-management, preparing framework for ecological monitoring and procuring vessels for patrolling. Work is ongoing to expand and develop ecotourism facilities.

He said that currently the government is implementing 6 projects for the conservation and development of Sundarbans and its biodiversity with a total estimated cost of Tk 295 crores 95 lakhs. Through the projects, conservation of Sundarbans environment, wildlife and biodiversity, countering adverse effects of climate change, science-based forest management, and creation of green belts in coastal areas are ongoing.

The Forest Minister said that the highest policy-making council of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has requested to conduct more research and take necessary measures as per the Environmental Management Plan for the purpose of more sustainable management of Sundarbans and to improve the ecology of land and marine systems of Sundarbans in the future. To ensure long-term protection, special emphasis has been placed on impact assessment on the Sundarbans while undertaking all future industrial and other development activities in the World Heritage Area. The government’s initiative to protect and develop the Sundarbans is continuously increasing.

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