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1 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Protection of wetlands

According to recent report published in this newspaper despite a directive from the Prime Minster, a Supreme Court (SC) order and several campaigns by environmentalists as well as the media, nothing seems to have restrained unscrupulous people from grabbing the country’s wetlands. New cases of land grabbing are frequently reported from in and around River Turag in violation of the wetland and environment conservation laws. This indeed is an alarming issue. The land grabbers apparently consider themselves above the law and in a recent development a section of unscrupulous people with the help of some influential local residents, industrial owners and housing companies have constructed a road of soil from Dour Bridge in Ashulia to Tongi’s Mudafa in the middle of the vast wetlands of the river.

Wetlands form a critical part of our ecosystem with diverse animal and plant life. Unfortunately, because of a lack of environmental consciousness and public education or awareness, wetlands such as haors, lakes, beels and marshes are systematically degraded and/or eliminated in Bangladesh through residential and commercial real-estate development projects.

Wetlands carry out rather important functions, including flood protection. Their sponge-like soil composition allows quick absorption of rainwater and can naturally prevent water-logging, which is nowadays a bigger problem than flooding in Dhaka, Chattogram and other major cities. Wetlands ensure biodiversity and provide a natural defence against flooding during storms. They also naturally filter nutrients and toxicants from polluted runoff from streets, parking lots, paved areas, building roofs and gutters or barnyards and farmland (in less urbanised districts) after rain passes through their special type soil.

During the last few decades, agricultural activities have been expanded in the wetland area very rapidly and this has affected the wetland ecosystems adversely both in qualitative and quantitative aspects. Human activities related to farming in the wetlands during winter months cause disturbance to the migratory birds. The increasing human settlement is another problem for the haor ecosystem which not only has occupied the natural habitat but also disturbed the wildlife greatly in the area.

The 2014 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ‘Living Planet Report’ showed that of all species, freshwater species showed the most dramatic decline, 76 per cent between 1970 and 2010. The main threats to these species are also the main threats to wetlands: degradation, conversion and pollution. Since 1900, some 70 per cent of all wetlands worldwide have been destroyed.

Bangladesh is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands. The deltaic country currently has two sites designated as ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ (RAMSAR sites)—the Sundarbans Reserved Forest and Tanguar Haor, with a surface area of 611,200 hectares.

Without growing public consciousness and compliance/enforcement of environmental regulations, Bangladesh could lose most of its critical wetland systems to unplanned urban development projects.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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