From the Editor-in-Chief: A time to act

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, December 8th, 2016
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It can be tempting to think a country like Bangladesh, besieged as it is by myriad problems on multiple fronts, has no business venturing into good samaritan causes like saving the tiger from extinction or conserving the environment. After all, the gains from such pursuits are too intangible for the popular imagination, sometimes too far out into the future for our pulse in the present day, and altogether too unsure in the present environment.

 

Yet that is a view that overlooks the fact that the Sundarbans, with its own unique biodiversity and the ecosystem it sustains, is responsible for some real gains for Bangladesh already. It is now well-documented of course, that the Sundarbans’ location shielded the country from bearing the full brunt of the mighty Sidr and Aila cyclones in recent years, following which a group of experts designated it “a living and most effective natural fence protecting the coastal belt areas.” Besides, a large chunk of people of Bagerhat , Khulna and about 1.8 million people of Satkhira residing in the border belts of the Sundarbans, many of them working as Bawali (golpata and wood cutter), Mawali (honey collector) and Jawali (fishermen), depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihood.

 

A UN–sponsored study conducted by the School of Oceanographic Studies at  Jadavpur University (SOS), Kolkata found that large adjoining areas surrounding the Sundarbans including West Bengal and Bangladesh may be severely affected as early as 2020 because the Sundarbans is on the verge of destruction. So the threat is very much real. The fallout, it is predicted, would be not just wide-ranging but frightening. While the rising sea level and soil erosion would submerge large swathes of land, rendering thousands living nearer the forest homeless, vast areas of West Bengal and Bangladesh on the coastline would be under the constant threat of cyclones, gales and storms.

 

Saving the tiger is integral to saving the Sundarbans. As much as the news is discouraging from the last tiger survey done in Bangladesh’s part of the Sundarbans, that revealed only 106 of them now roam in the wild, our efforts cannot waver at this stage. The WWF estimates with just one tiger, we protect around 25,000 acres of forest. That in itself tells us we must fight for every single tiger to the finish. And our efforts to this end must focus on collecting data on diet, pack behaviour, gene pool and habitat.

 

This is an effort that cannot be left to any one party alone. That is why WildTeam has joined forces with USAID in its flagship Bagh activity to fight for the Royal Bengal Tiger, alongside the private sector, to help the government in its efforts to salvage our pride, that is derived from both the Sundarbans and the tiger. Nor can the effort be left till tomorrow anymore. In order to bestow to future generations the majestic biodiversity we and our ancestors have enjoyed, the time to act is now.

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