Tk 128cr project to develop ecosystems in Sundarbans
DHAKA, JAN 14: The government has taken an initiative to develop the ecosystems as well as production capacity of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, by increasing its resilience against natural calamities. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday approved a Tk 128 crore project titled ‘Sundarbans Environmental and Livelihoods Security (SEALS)’ to achieve the objective. Of the total project cost, Tk 33 crore will come from the government exchequer, Tk 4 crore as NGO contribution while Tk 91 crore as project assistance in the form of grants from the European Commission (EC).
The objectives of the project also include creating alternative employment opportunities for the people living in and around the Sundarbans, said State Minister for Environment and Forests Dr Hasan Mahmud.
Talking to UNB correspondent Golam Moin Uddin over phone, he said that the project has been undertaken at a time when the Sundarbans is in the race for its inclusion in the world’s new seven wonders.
Hasan Mahmud said that the cyclone Sidr and Aila destroyed most of the establishments including the Forests Department offices in the Sundarbans. “Under the newly approved project, these will be rebuilt and the habitat will also be developed.”
He said that the project will also aims at creating alternative means of livelihood for the people living adjacent to the Sundarbans so that they will not have to rely only on the products of the mangrove forest. The work on the project will start as soon as possible and completed by December 2014, he added. The project will be implemented in five districts of two divisions – Khulna and Barisal – cover 17 upazilas. The upazilas are Mongla, Morelganj, Rampal and Sharankhola in Bagerhat district, Ashashuni, Kaliganj and Shymnagar in Satkhira, Batiaghata, Dakop, Koira and Paikgachha in Khulna, Bamna, Barguna sadar and Patharghata in Barguna and Bhandaria, Mathbaria and Nesarabad in Pirojpur.
The State Minister said that during the tenure of the previous Awami League government, another project titled ‘Protection of bio-diversity in the Sundarbans’ was approved at a cost of Tk 399 crore.
“But the work on the project were halted after three years due to irregularities,” he added.
The newly approved SEALS project covers holding seminars and workshops, publicity and documentary films, NGO activities, monitoring and evaluation (foreign), repair and procurement of speed boats and trawlers, pontoon gangway and jetty construction, office building construction, renovation and jetty renovation, pond excavation and rainwater reservoirs.
The total area of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh part is around 6,000 square kilometers. The Sundarbans was declared a reserve forest in 1875 and as a world heritage site in 1997. The sociopolitical importance of the Sundarbans is also immense as around 600,000 people dependent on it directly or indirectly for their livelihood. Rivers and canals in the Sundarbans, spreading over some 12,000 kilometers area, are also rich in fish resources.