Often we get news of forest fire in Sundarban, the breathing space for Bangladesh. This mangrove forest spreads in the greater Khulna district in Bangladesh and 24 Parganas of West Bengal, India. In one sense, Sundarban is the pride of Bangladesh as it is the sanctuary of our national animal the royal Bengal tiger. Bengal tigers' majestic movement/walking in the forest make all of us happy and proud. And we love to depict our national cricket team as tigers. The only game that we have some success in international arena. Recently some incidents have made Sundarban endangered. We know the ideal proportion of forest area in a country is about 20-25 percent land area. But now we have less than 15 percent covered forest area. Mainly our forest areas are located in Chattogram, Chattogram Hill Tracts, greater Sylhet, greater Dhaka and greater Mymenshing other than Sundarban.

The common natural enemy of Sundarban are cyclones, tidal surges that hit Bangladesh coastal areas including Sundarban. Generally in the months of April/May and October/November in a year natural calamities occurred and the manmade incidents such as forest fire, cutting trees, illegal hunting, illegal fishing and extracting honey occurred round the year. The unauthorized extraction of forest materials are harming Sundarban a lot. Since last twenty five years cyclones Sidr, Aila, Remal damaged Sundarban in various ways. These cyclones are one of the causes of tree felling in Sundarban. And these affected the lives of flora and fauna in Sundarban. Recently happened Remal damaged the abodes of wild animals of Sundarban. After this cyclone many dead spotted deer were found in different places in Sundarban. The volume and magnitudes of cyclone might also endanger shelter of other animals such as tigers, wild boars, birds, bees, fish etc. In the long run it will affect the ecology and environment of Sundarban.

A national daily recently published a report on forest fire in Sundarban. Report says foresters and fishers are mainly responsible for forest fire. This report was based on a seminar held in Sagar-Runi auditorium in the Dhaka reporters' unity. A teacher of environmental science of Khulna University was the main speaker of that seminar. He told the causes of Sundarban might be dried leaves of the trees. He said Sharonkhola range and Chandpai range were mainly affected by fire and recently about 7.9 acres of forest area were burnt. He opined Chandpai and Sharonkhola range are comparatively high land. Inside Sundarban canal excavations made the two sides of canal elevated and for that reason water cannot go into the forest. As a result of this consequences the leaves fallen from the trees get dried gradually. And this situation is favorable for forest fire. But how this fire actually occurred was not authentically detected. We can assume that foresters and persons legally or illegally entering Sundarban are mainly responsible forest fire. Because there might be some person who are smokers and they might have smoked cigarettes and later threw the butts/stumps. Consequently fire happened.

Generally natural forest fire in western countries does not happen in tropical zone in the earth. We get the news of forest fire happening in Europe, North America and Australia and the causes of those forest fire were excessive evolving of localized heat in those areas. But the possible causes of forest fire in Sundarban might be the result of human activities. So regulatory authority should be more careful to give permission entering Sundarban.

Sundarban is also one of the touristic attraction in Bangladesh. After opening Padma bridge the volume of tourist attractions for Sundarban has developed much.

Many tour operators offer different packages to visit Sundarban. It is true that this is one kind of economic activities and many people are involved in this business and substantial number of employments are created. A large number of peoples' livelihoods depend on Sundarban but at the same time the authority or department of forest should take necessary steps to strike a balance between tourism potentiality and protection of this forest. Otherwise unregulated trespass in Sundarban has to be a big causes of harming Sundarban. Illegal or unauthorized entry into Sundarban must be stopped. Sundarban is also a sanctuary of some outlaws. To avoid law enforcers these outlaws take shelter in the deep forest in Sundarban. In this way they are also harming Sundarban. Maybe they cut trees and make their shelter in the dense forest. In this way they also endanger the ecology of forest, flora and fauna.

We know Bangladesh is densely populated country. In this situation Sundarban is the valuable gift of nature and it helps the wild animals to live on. It creates employment of many people. So special cares are required to protect Sundarban. Nowadays many structures and power-plant are constructed adjacent to surroundings of Sundarban areas. So farther escalations of constructing of such structures should be stopped. If such structures are needed then expert opinions have to get priority to proceed with such initiatives. Last fifty years the population has become increased about more than doubled. So the movement of the people in and around Sundarban are contributing to endangering lives and sanctuaries of aquatic creatures and wild animals living in Sundarban.

Every year tidal surges and cyclones hit coastal areas in Bangladesh. It is the gamble of nature. We cannot stop such cyclones and tidal surges. But we have many options and remedies to decrease the volume of damages caused by cyclones and tidal surges. Management of disaster preparedness has to get highest priority to face the cyclones and tidal surges. Last fifty years Bangladesh has gradually developed disaster management process. The tidal surges and cyclones of 1970 and 1991 had taken lives of people over a million. Even recently happened Sidr and Aila are the causes of a large number of people and damaging properties and tree felling. We know people are becoming gradually conscious about what to do and not to do during disaster time. So now in the same magnitude and volume of cyclones, the loss of men and materials are gradually decreasing. This is the result of following strong and durable disaster management of Bangladesh.

We started this article with wild fire and bush fire in Sundarban. The frequency and magnitude of fire are not comparable to that of wild fire happening in Europe, North America and Australia. But fire happens in Sundarban is not insignificant. As it is the breathing space for Bangladesh and as well as sanctuary of our pride the majestic royal Bengal tigers, many other animals, birds, fish etc. To protect our Sundarban, an integrated effort should be taken by the concerned authority of the government which include public private initiatives. So that people from all walks of life can give opinions in the appropriate platform for protecting Sundarban. Apart from the cyclonic storms, tidal surges, activities of some people are endangering Sundarban. We all should try to stop such harmful activities to protect the forest. Maybe in this way the ecology of Sundarban and its surroundings can be protected in the days to come.

Dr. Syed Nesar Ahmad Rumy, Former Civil Servant, Dhaka

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