Enforced disappearance of natural forest conservators from Sundarbans: de jure vs. de facto


Tigers serve as the 'natural forest conservators' of the Sundarbans, the largest single mangrove forest on earth. They serve as the 'gardener of a garden' and control the prey populations, thus ensure healthy prey populations and regeneration of forest and maintain unique ecosystem and food chain of Sundarbans for hundred years without any remuneration. They also prevent anthropogenic interference into natural forest. But they don't know that, tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh; icon of the cultural and national heritage of Bangladesh; symbol of Bangladesh National Cricket team; and flagship species of the Sundarbans.

Tiger is now endangered globally and critically endangered in Bangladesh. A recent survey on tiger population in Bangladesh's part of Sundarbans by using camera trapping methodology shows that, about 106 tigers living there, that numbers are far fewer than previously thought. Some 440 tigers were recorded in the previous census conducted in 2004 by identifying pugmark. Bangladesh is under obligation by various international conventions and protocols to protect and preserve tigers by taking legal and other pragmatic approaches.

Under Article 18A of Constitution, State is responsible to protect wild life and biodiversity for the present and future generation. In 2012 the Parliament of Bangladesh has enacted 'The Wildlife (Preservation and Safety) Act, 2012' in considering obligation under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992 and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 1973.  Illegal poaching and trafficking of tiger and any part thereof is a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence and punished with highest punishment under this Act. Under this Act all the duties regarding conservation, improvement of safety and management of biodiversity, forest and wildlife of the country vested to theForest Department of Bangladesh. As regards Sundarbans (World Heritage site and Ramser site) the last remaining natural habitat for tigers in Bangladesh. Moreover, the Government of Bangladesh has adopted the Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan 2009-2017 and National Tiger Recovery Programme with the main goal of stabilizing or increasing the Sundarbans tiger population in next years.

Bangladesh as member of Global Tiger Forum, Global Tiger Initiative and participant of Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit 2010 is promised to the international community to make double the tiger population by 2022. Bangladesh as one of the Tiger Range Countries observes Global Tiger Day on 29th July in every year and in this year with the slogan of 'if tiger is protected, forests and Sundarbans will be conserved'. In the context of Bangladesh tigers are protected by law but practically they are most vulnerable and marginalized species. They are disappearing gradually,sometimes their dead bodies or parts thereof are found. They are not only victims of illegal poaching and trafficking but also adverse impacts of climate change i.e. climate induced disasters e.g. storm surges, sea level rise, salinity intrusion these will affect life, food chain and habitat.

At present human interference by way of navigation, deforestation and conversion of forest land into human settlement, farming, industrialization, power plant is the great threat for their existence.We cannot say this process of disappearance is a normal course of nature, this is enforced disappearance by the perpetrators in taking the opportunity of negligence of responsible agencies. Land grabbers are now waiting for complete disappearance of tigers from Sundarbans as disappeared from other natural forests of Bangladesh, then they will convert it as industrial park, eco-city, fishing firm etc.

We are demanding in-situ conservation of tigers in Sundarbans and ex-situ conservation in safari parks, eco parks and zoos then releasing in their natural habitat. We hope these natural forest conservators will live in their habitat safely as child grows in its mother's lap.
Long live Bangladesh; long live Bengal Tigers.

Cite this article as: Imtiaz Ahmed Sajal, 'Enforced disappearance of natural forest conservators from Sundarbans: de jure vs. de facto' (Bangladesh Law Digest, August 18, 2015) <https://bdlawdigest.org/enforced-disappearance-of-natural-forest-conservators-from-sundarbans-de-jure-vs-de-facto.html>


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