Dealing with fires in Sundarbans

Dhaka,  Wed,  26 July 2017
Published : 19 Jun 2017, 20:37:24
printer
OPINION

Dealing with fires in Sundarbans

It is time the government took effective steps to stop such fires in the Sundarbans. The forest officials in close coordination with the Coast Guard should step up monitoring of vested quarters out to damage the mangrove and do the needful, writes Rahman Jahangir
The Sundarbans, the UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Bangladesh, now seemingly faces threats to its very existence. While there is an extensive debate over the adverse impact of coal-fired Rampal power plant project, oil spilling due to sinking of vessels in rivers and rivulets of the Sundarbans and lately recurring fires inside the vast forest have added salt to the injury. The importance of the biggest mangrove forest was recently highlighted by no less a  person than the prime minister. Sheikh Hasina, at a function in Dhaka, quite rightly said the Sundarbans is linked to the very existence of Bangladesh.

In fact, reports of fires inside the Sundarbans give an ominous signal.  Not long ago, a fire broke out in Chandpai range of the Sundarbans in Sharankhola upazila of Bagerhat. This is the third incident of forest fire in Chandpai range over the last three weeks. On March 27, another fire broke out in the Dhanshagor station's Nangli forest camp area. In the last 14 years, there were 19 fire incidents in Chandpai and Sharankhola ranges of the Sundarbans.

The fires have already caused an extensive damage to the forest. The Ministry of Environment and Forest took a number of journalists on a chopper to give them an aerial view of fire in the forest. An account from the sky showed 'abrupt rusty patches here and there in the otherwise vast green forest. These look like deep burn wounds from the sky.  Those patches of black are the places where locals set fire in the Chandpai range in the East Sundarbans.' 

Although the journalists could not have an exact assessment from the sky, officials say at least 13 acres of the forest got burned down in four incidents of fire in four different areas in Nangli in the last one month. Locals say some 20 acres have been affected. Administration and forest officials claim locals set fire to the forest at least 21 times in the Chandpai range. Already, the forest department has filed three cases against 10 locals. The mastermind is an influential political leader of the area. He is notorious for hunting wild animals in the Sundarbans, locals said. About the motive of setting fire, forest officials said their investigation found it was meant to catch fish easily.

In fact, the bank of the Bhola river in Dhansagor area of the Sundarbands is a little higher than the forest land. So once the high-tide water enters the forest, it does not recede easily. Some fish species like catfish and snake fish come in that water for spawning. Fishermen set fire to the forest so they can pull nets and catch those fish easily. Slowly, the fishermen clear some areas of the forest in this way. Things were getting worse in the area every year. But this year, they have been setting fire intentionally to avenge the filing of cases by forest officials over some fire incidents. Fishing inside the forest is prohibited under the Forest Act of 1927, but it continues unabated.

The forest fires are affecting the biodiversity of the Sundarbans, an investigation found. Species like mammals, amphibians and birds have reduced significantly due to the razing of the forest. Locals even razed the nypa along the bank of the river in such a way that no new plant is growing there. It is time the government took effective steps to stop such fires in the Sundarbans. The forest officials in close coordination with the Coast Guard should step up monitoring of vested quarters out to damage the mangrove and do the needful.

arjayster@gmail.com



 
ADDRESS
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
Telephone : PABX : 9553550 (Hunting), 9513814, 7172017 and 7172012 Fax : 880-2-9567049
Email : editor@thefinancialexpress-bd.com, fexpress68@gmail.com
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved
Powered by : orangebdlogo
close