The report by a news agency that the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, is turning into a 'sanctuary for poachers' is indeed terrifying. The forest is supposed to be a sanctuary for its vast flora and fauna. Instead, it has become a safe haven for the poachers who hunt down its precious wildlife and for the smugglers who illegally snatch away its natural resources.
The forest has recently been exposed to a wide range of threats with the construction of the Rampal power plant. In August last year, the National Environment Committee relaxed and changed some policies in order to allow potentially risky industries to run in the forest's ecologically critical area (ECA). Now there is an additional threat from increased poaching.
The fact that the forest department depends on one guard—in many cases, a physically unfit one—to cover nine square kilometres of the forest speaks volumes of the extent of the forest department's helplessness. As a huge number of posts are vacant, the forest department's efforts to combat smugglers and poachers have been severely hindered. In the absence of an adequate number of guards, the department has had to count on boatmen to carry out patrols. Recently, it has been forced to shut down five of its patrolling camps.
This situation could have been avoided. It goes without saying that the manpower of the forest department—especially the number of its guards—stationed in the Sundarbans must be increased. That is the least we can do to protect our precious forest.