“India, Bangladesh Join Hands to Save Sundarbans” by The Wall Street Journal
“India, Bangladesh Join Hands to Save Sundarbans.” The Wall Street Journal – India Real Time. 12 September 2011.
India, Bangladesh Join Hands to Save Sundarbans
The Wall Street Journal – India Real Time
September 12, 2011
The Teesta water-sharing agreement may have turned to dust, but there were a few positive breakthroughs that came out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh last week.
India and Bangladesh pledged to work together for the preservation of the Sunderbans mangrove forest and to protect the endangered Royal Bengal tigers who live there. The Sunderbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, lies between the two neighboring countries along the delta of the river Ganges.
Wildlife experts have said that efforts to protect the Sunderbans’ ecosystems have stalled partly because of the geographical divide. “Even though Sunderbans is divided by two countries, it is a single ecosystem,” said S.B Mondal, chief wildlife warden at the Sunderbans’ biosphere reserve. He hopes that the agreement to jointly manage the forest will change that.
Mr. Singh and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding on the Sunderbans and announced that the two countries will jointly patrol its waterways on their respective sides “to prevent poaching or smuggling of derivatives from wildlife and bilateral initiatives to ensure survival and conservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger.” This is the first major agreement between the two countries on this issue.
The agreement is a significant development that could also pave the way to repopulate the Sunderbans’ dwindling tiger population, which stands at around 70, according to the latest tiger census. So far, crimes like poaching have been hard to prosecute in the area because of the poor communication between the two countries.
Rajesh Gopal, director of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, said this agreement is long due. Whether this will help the tiger population, however, depends on the extent to which India and Bangladesh will effectively cooperate, he said.
But he also pointed out that this is not enough: India and Bangladesh should improve their management efforts on their own side of the border, too. “There are many problems that the management on both sides face, but most of these have to be addressed by these respective sides only,” he said. Joint management between the two sides seems like a positive first step.
Besides its endangered tiger population, the Sunderbans’ ecosystem faces several other threats including rising sea levels, due to global warming, and the progressive erosion of the over 100 islands located there. Villagers chopping wood from the Sunderbans for their daily livelihood is also an issue.