Roosevelt, the famous writer called the forest as "the lungs of the Earth". Forests are the most ecologically diverse ecosystems on land, including more than 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants, and insects. Forests comprise 30% of the earth's surface and serve as essential habitats for millions of species, sources of clean air and water, and, of course, crucial for combating climate change. International Forest Day is an amazing opportunity to commemorate the world's biodiversity and human achievements in its preservation, as well as to educate the public about forests and ecosystems. The moto of the International Day of Forests in this year is "Forests and Innovation". Bangladesh has several forests of its own and is known as the land of green scenario. The majority of its public forestlands are located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, greater Khulna district, greater Sylhet district, Dhaka, Mymensingh, and Tangail districts. Among all the forest, the largest forest in Bangladesh is Sundarbans. It is estimated that Bangladesh has approximately 6% of its land covered with public forests, actually very little of natural forests is left today except for those in the Sundarbans in Khulna.

The Sundarbans, a wonderful geographical region with outstanding natural beauty. It is the enormous forest and one of the greatest natural attractions of the World. This vast mangrove forest, spanning the border of India and Bangladesh, is not just a biodiverse hotspot but also a lifeline for millions of people and an emblem of resilience in the face of climate change. The mangrove ecosystem acts as a natural barrier against cyclones and tidal surges, providing invaluable protection to the coastal communities of Bangladesh. Spanning approximately 10,000 square kilometers, it is the largest mangrove forest in the world, serving as a critical habitat for several endangered species, including the Bengal tiger, estuarine crocodile, and Irrawaddy dolphin. Moreover, its intricate network of waterways and tidal mudflats supports a diverse array of marine life, making it a crucial breeding ground for fish and crustaceans. Beyond its ecological significance, the Sundarbans plays a vital role in mitigating the impacts of natural disasters, such as cyclones and storm surges, by acting as a natural barrier that absorbs and dissipates the force of incoming waves. Additionally, the mangrove forests help sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, playing a crucial role in combating climate change. The UNESCO Commission of the United Nations declared three Sundarbans sanctuaries as World Heritage Sites in 1997. In 2017, the government expanded the sanctuary area in the Sundarbans. Out of the total forest area of 601,700 hectares, now the sanctuary area is 317,900 hectares. Earlier it was only 139,700 hectares. This mangrove forest, home to a rich array of flora and fauna, including the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger, various species of deer, monkeys, crocodiles, and over 300 bird species.

Despite its ecological importance, the Sundarbans faces numerous threats that jeopardize its integrity. One of the most pressing challenges is climate change, which has led to rising sea levels, increased temperatures, and more frequent extreme weather events. These changes not only disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem but also endanger the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on the Sundarbans for their survival. Human activities such as deforestation, overfishing, and pollution further exacerbate the pressures on this fragile ecosystem. Illegal logging and the conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp farms have led to habitat loss and degradation, threatening the survival of numerous species. Moreover, pollution from agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and shipping traffic poses a significant risk to water quality and marine life in the region. However, salinity in the Sundarbans is increasing due to climate change. Besides, the flow of water in the rivers and canals of the forest is decreasing gradually and several canals of the forest have been filled with silt. Sundari trees are dying due to excessive salinity. Wildlife is also being affected by various diseases by consuming salt water. In the Sundarbans, wild animals are being hunted and people do fishing by spraying pesticides in rivers and canals which threaten the biodiversity of the Sundarbans. The Rampal project has caused considerable damage to the Sundarbans and it created massive ecological disasters in Sundarbans.

Future conservation efforts for the Sundarbans must prioritize adaptive management strategies that address emerging environmental threats and promote long-term resilience. With climate change projected to exacerbate the vulnerability of the Sundarbans, adaptation measures such as mangrove restoration, coastal afforestation, and ecosystem-based approaches are crucial for enhancing the Sundarbans' ability to withstand rising sea levels and extreme weather events. In the face of these challenges, scientific research and data-driven conservation strategies are indispensable. Researchers and environmental organizations have been utilizing various scientific methods to monitor the health of the Sundarbans and formulate effective conservation plans. Remote sensing technologies, such as satellite imagery and drones, enable scientists to monitor changes in land cover, deforestation rates, and habitat loss over large areas. Furthermore, biodiversity surveys and ecological studies provide valuable insights into the Sundarbans' flora and fauna, helping researchers understand species distributions, population dynamics, and ecosystem interactions. By monitoring changes in species abundance and diversity, scientists can assess the impact of human activities and climate change on the ecosystem's health. Effective conservation of the Sundarbans requires collaboration between governments, local communities, researchers, and environmental organizations. Community-based approaches, involving the participation of indigenous peoples and traditional resource users, are essential for ensuring the long-term sustainability of conservation efforts. Empowering local communities with scientific knowledge and capacity-building initiatives enhances their ability to manage natural resources responsibly and adapt to changing environmental conditions. For example, providing training in sustainable fishing practices and alternative livelihood options reduces pressure on the Sundarbans' resources while improving community resilience. Education and awareness-raising campaigns play a crucial role in fostering a sense of stewardship and instilling environmental ethics among the younger generation.

International Forest Day serves as an opportunity to celebrate the beauty and significance of this remarkable ecosystem while raising awareness about the threats it faces. Events and activities organized on this day highlight the importance of conservation and sustainable development, encouraging individuals and communities to take action to protect the Sundarbans for future generations. From tree planting drives and beach cleanups to educational workshops and cultural performances, Sundarbans Day festivities bring together people from all walks of life to unite in their commitment to preserving our planet's natural heritage. Through these collective efforts, we can ensure that the Sundarbans continues to thrive as a symbol of resilience, biodiversity, and the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. By prioritizing the protection of the Sundarbans and investing in sustainable development practices, we can safeguard its ecological integrity while improving the livelihoods of the communities that depend on it. As individuals, we can also contribute to the conservation of the Sundarbans by making environmentally conscious choices in our daily lives, reducing our carbon footprint, and supporting initiatives that promote conservation and sustainable development. By engaging schools, universities, and community groups in conservation activities and citizen science projects, we can cultivate a culture of environmental responsibility. Together, we can ensure that the Sundarbans remains a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Dean, Faculty of Science, Chairman, Dept. of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and Chairman, Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS). E-mail:;

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