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Sundarbans sanctuary expansion: Fishermen, woodcutters left in misery

  • Published at 01:11 am September 30th, 2018
web-spotted-deer-tourism-sundarban
Spotted deer at the Sundarbans, a Unesco World Heritage Site and a wildlife sanctuary. The largest mangrove forest in the world in Katka, Bagerhat Syed Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

According to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the Sundarbans East Forest Zone a project costing Tk406 crore is underway to protect the Sundarbans and for those who have turned unemployed due to the extension of the sanctuary

A large number of fishermen and woodcutters, who depend on forest resources of the Sundarbans, are living in misery as they are unable to earn their livelihood due to restrictions in entering the forests. 

Many fishermen who live on fishing in water bodies of the Sundarbans have been restricted from entering the area.

The Forest and Environment Ministry designated 73% of the Sharonkhola range of the Sundarbans as wildlife sanctuary and restricted the fishermen and woodcutters from entering the area without taking any measures for their rehabilitation.


Also read- Sanctuary extended for Sundarbans wildlife


Al Amin, a fisherman from Charpara village of the upazila, said, "I had been earning my living from fishing in the Sundarbans since I was 15. I am looking after my family with loans from the mohajon (money lenders) as I couldn't fish in the forest for the last three months. Now the money lenders are forcing me to repay the loans...I have no clue how to repay them."

Another fisherman, Mamun, said now fishermen have access to only 27% of the Sharonkhola range where only 200 to 300 fishermen can go fishing. As a result, the rest of the fishermen have lost work, and are living in misery.

"After the sanctuary was declared, I went to Chittagong to earn a living but had to come back after working as a day-labourer for a week," he said alleging that teachers there refused to admit his children in the school as they were not permanent residents of the area, reports UNB.

Jalal Molla, a fish trader of the Sharonkhali market, said he used to provide loans to fishermen and send them fish in the forest, but the trade is totally collapsing now.

Bachchu Munshi, a ward member of the Southkhali Union Parishad, said if the situation does not change many fishermen of the region will be forced to leave their village to find alternative work.

According to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the Sundarbans East Forest Zone Md Mahmudul Hasan a project costing Tk406 crore is underway to protect the Sundarbans and for those who have turned unemployed due to the extension of the sanctuary.

Under the project, Tk250 crore will be spent on rehabilitation of the unemployed people under a five-year livelihood development program, the DFO added expressing hope that the unemployed fishermen will get out of the crisis soon.

In July 2017, the government issued a new notification on the expansion of the sanctuary areas in different parts of the Sundarbans. With this notification, another 178,260 hectares of land have been added to the existing sanctuary, giving half of Bangladesh's Sundarbans a sanctuary status.

Of the additional 1,78,260 hectares of the sanctuary, 91,693 hectares are under the Sundarbans East division in Sarankhola; 38,339 hectares under the South division in Khulna; and 48,216 hectares under the West division in Satkhira, sources in the Forest Department said.

The government, aiming to help increase the biodiversity of the forest, including wildlife and trees has imposed a ban on collecting forest resources from the sanctuary areas.

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