POST TIME: 12 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Forest dept starts assessing damages to Sundarbans

Forest dept starts assessing damages to Sundarbans

Cyclone Bulbul, which made landfall in the south-western part of Bangladesh near the Sundarbans, may have caused massive damage to the world’s largest mangrove forest, fear experts. However, the forest department has not yet been able to provide precise figures regarding the extent of the destruction caused by the cyclone in the Sundarbans. The forest department yesterday began to assess the nature of the damage to the mangrove forests and wildlife in the Sundarbans. At least 63 camps under 16 stations in four regional offices of the department have begun the survey. Besides, the department has, for the time, stopped tourists from going to the Sundarbans.

Initially, the forest department had said some camps, wooden pontoons, jetties and walkways had been damaged by the cyclone. Bulbul, with a ferocious wind force of over 120 kmph, hit the south-western part of the forest, especially the Satkhira range and the Khulna range, including Shoronkhola and Dublarchar, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

“Trees, branches, some camps and jetties have been broken. It will take a few days to determine the full impact of the storm on wildlife,” Moyeen Uddin Khan, conservator of forests, Khulna, told The Independent yesterday. He said, “We have temporarily banned tourists from going to the Sundarbans until the damage assessment is over.” He said the employees of 63 camps of the forest department had started work to assess the extent of the damage. He hoped the damage was not severe. But some areas of the Sundarbans, particularly the Satkhira range, the Khulna range, Shoronkhola and Dublarchar might have been affected more than the other parts.

In 2007, Cyclone Sidr, which had a wind speed of 250 kmph, caused significant damage to the invaluable mangrove forest. The forest department had estimated that one-fourth of the Sundarbans had been severely damaged by Sidr. In monetary terms, the damage was valued at more than Tk. 1,000 crore.

“Owing to frequent cyclones, the country may lose revenue from the its  largest tourism destination, the Sundarbans,” said Khan, adding that currently, the country earns annual revenues of around Tk. 1.5 crore to Tk. 2 crore from this sector.

According to forest department data, in the last fiscal year, at least 1.5 lakh to 1.7 lakh people visited the Sundarbans.

Nur Alam Sheikh, convener of the Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon in Bagerhat district, said he had already visited several places in the Sundarbans. But he could not give a clear picture of the situation inside the forest.

“The situation there is believed to be very bad. The exact picture will emerge only after an assessment is done by the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bagerhat district administration cancelled the traditional ‘Rash Mela’ festival in Sundarban’s Dublar Char area because of the destruction inflicted by Cyclone Bulbul. The three-day Rash Mela was scheduled for November 10 in the Alorkol area of Dublar Char but is not being held this year because of safety concerns.

Pradip Basu, the general secretary of the festival organising committee, said they had made all preparations for the celebrations. But the event had to be cancelled because of bad weather conditions.