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Sundarbans: The physical buffer that needs a rest

  • Published at 12:09 am November 14th, 2019
The Sundarbans mangove forest Dhaka Tribune

'The ecosystem of the Sundarbans should be given a rest. For this, the entry of tourists to it was restricted from Tuesday'

The Forest Department plans to give the Sundarbans breathing space to heal its wounds from the onslaught of Cyclone Bulbul.  They intend to restrict tourist flow into the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Md Mahmudul Hasan, divisional forest officer (DFO) of the Sundarbans East Zone, said the cyclone wreaked havoc on the forest before entering the localities and losing its strength. “The ecosystem of the Sundarbans should be given a rest. For this, the entry of tourists to it was restricted from Tuesday.”

He also said tourism in the Sundarbans will  remain fully suspended for three days from November 25 to ascertain the damage caused by the cyclone.

Moin Uddin Khan, a Khulna Zone forest conservator also said the authorities have decided to restrict tourist flow into the forest. “To give the forest a breathing space, it has been decided that package tours will remain suspended November 25-27.”

The Sundarbans have been protecting the people of the coastal belt from various disasters, including cyclones, for ages acting as a natural shield, sometimes costing its flora and fauna. There is no exception in the case of cyclonic storm ‘Bulbul’ which lashed the coastal districts on Sunday.

It was because of the Sundarbans that the intensity of the cyclone as well as the extent of damage was minimised as it hit the forest first and then entered the localities, losing strength.

The Sundarbans, a rich ecosystem in the world with biodiversity and a home to numerous plants and animals, including the Royal Bengal Tiger, spreads across an area of 6,017 square kilometres. It was declared a reserve forest in 1978.

Recently, the government declared over half of the forest as sanctuaries in a bid to protect it.

It was divided into two zones with administrative activities of the East Zone running from Bagerhat, and the West Zone from Khulna.

The very severe cyclone ‘Bulbul’ weakened to a severe one, after crossing the forest Sunday. Hence the damage was less, said meteorologists.

They said there would have been a greater number of casualties had the Sundarbans not been there to take the first brunt of the cyclone.

Similarly, the Sundarbans minimised the extent of damages when super cyclone Sidr battered the coastal districts on November 15.

Sidr first lashed the mangrove forest and then entered localities with reduced ferocity.

The Forest Department is yet to ascertain the damages caused by cyclone ‘Bulbul’ to the flora and fauna of the Sundarbans.

DFO Mahmudul Hasan said two forest officers of Chandpai and Sharankhola ranges were assigned to ascertain the damage to different species of trees, including Sundari, and animals in the zone.

He said the two officials visited different parts of the forest on Monday and will submit their reports after further inspection.

The DFO said six residential buildings, 17 non-residential buildings, 19 other establishments, and three trawlers and speedboats were partially damaged by ‘Bulbul,’ while10 jetties were damaged completely. 

Some 180 raintrees were affected in Baidyamari of the forest, he said.

A number of local and foreign tourists were seen visiting the Sundarbans at Katka on Monday.

Talking to UNB, Spanish tourist Ester Baselona said she was impressed seeing the beauty of the largest mangrove forest, and called it a ‘land of amazing beauty.’

Nur Alam, a member of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said the Sundarbans has been protecting the coastal people with motherly affection for ages.

Alam, who visited various spots in the forest immediately after the storm, said vast areas were battered by cyclone Bulbul, and urged the authorities to take initiatives to protect the forest.