Bangladesh’s growing energy needs threaten protected wetlands, the last home of the Royal Bengal tiger.
By Sazzad Haider
Bangladesh has started construction work on a coal-fired power plant within 14 km of the protected Sundarban river delta, which contains the planet’s largest mangrove forest. According to protesters, the still under construction Rampal power plant will be one of the greatest risks to the fauna and flora of the Sundarban. Despite the efforts of UNESCO and environmental activists to halt or relocate the controversial project, the government is moving forward—but the nation is divided over whether to prioritize development or the Suderban’s delicate ecosystem and the last home of the critically endangered Royal Bengal tiger.
The Home of Bengal Tigers
The Sundarban, a deltaic mangrove forest of amazing beauty, was named after its ubiquitous Sundari trees. The forest covers around 10,000 square km, a major portion of which is in Bangladesh and around 4,264 square km in India. The Sundarban was formed by the confluence of three mighty rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna. Consisting of 54 small islands, the mangrove forest is crisscrossed by several flows of the Ganges. This interconnected network of rivers and channels make almost every nook and cranny of the forest accessible by boats or rafts. The tidal ebb and flow of the Bay of Bengal regularly submerges the islands. As a wetland, the Sundarban is an incredibly diverse ecosystem and sanctuary for many different species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and fish, and it is the only home of the Royal Bengal tiger. A UNESCO world heritage site, the Sundarban was declared protected under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on wetlands.
The Sundarban is also home to a large human population. Nearly 7.5 million Bangladeshi people directly or indirectly depend on Sundarban resources. It is the largest source of forest products in Bangladesh. The forest provides …
To read complete articles from the Spring 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.