WB support for sustainable development of Sundarbans

The World Bank (WB) is helping Bangladesh carry out a series of studies to develop a holistic programme for sustainable development of the Sundarbans, the world's single largest mangrove forest.
A comprehensive plan based on these studies would be developed to integrate prioritised interventions to address the region's main conservation and development challenges. The studies will be drawn upon the main challenges of poverty reduction, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity conservation in the Sundarbans, according to a WB release issued yesterday.
The studies, expected to be completed by September next year, will take full account of the distinction between protected areas (where resource extraction is not allowed) and surrounding inhabited areas for assessing the development challenges of the Sundarbans, and identifying alternative interventions to address them.
Bangladesh and India share the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans and sixty-two percent of the Sundarbans falls in Bangladesh. Due to its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystem, the ecological importance of the Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF) is immense.
The Sundarbans is home to an estimated 425 species of wildlife, including 300 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, as well as the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Over 3.5 million people live in the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area (ECA), with no permanent settlement within the Sundarbans Reserve Forest.
Among them, about 1.2 million people directly depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihoods. Most of these people are Bowalis (wood cutters/golpatta collectors), fishermen, crab and shell collectors, Mowalis (honey collectors) and shrimp fry collectors and mostly women and children.
The study will integrate the ecological dimension and importance of the Sundarbans' biodiversity while maintaining a careful distinction between protected and inhabited areas to ensure that conservation of the protected areas can be upheld.
To succeed in any conservation efforts, it will be important to arrange sustainable and alternative income generation opportunities for the people living in the periphery of Sundarbans who are dependent on forest resources, said the release.
A World Bank team visited Bangladesh in June this year to prepare the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the studies and to discuss setting-up of two national committees to ensure the quality of the studies and coordinate closely with the study team.
The WB earlier facilitated wide consultation with government agencies, development partners and research institutions involved in the Sundarbans areas to prepare the Concept Note.
The Sundarbans was named “The Venice of Nature” at a special event at the Shanghai Expo in China last month.


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