Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Economy of Sundarbans

The Sundarbans has a population of over 4 million[29] but much of it is mostly free of permanent human habitation.

The Sundarbans plays an important role in the economy of the southwestern region of Bangladesh as well as in the national economy. It is the single largest source of forest produce in the country. The forest provides raw materials for wood based industries. In addition to traditional forest produce like timber, fuelwood, pulpwood etc., large scale harvest of non wood forest products such as thatching materials, honey, bees-wax, fish, crustacean and mollusk resources of the forest takes place regularly. The vegetated tidal lands of the Sundarbans also function as an essential habitat, produces nutrients and purifies water. The forest also traps nutrient and sediment, acts as a storm barrier, shore stabilizer and energy storage unit. Last but not the least, the Sunderbans provides a wonderful aesthetic attraction for local and foreign tourists.

The forest also has immense protective and productive functions. Constituting 51% of the total reserved forest estate of Bangladesh, it contributes about 41% of total forest revenue and accounts for about 45% of all timber and fuel wood output of the country (FAO 1995). A number of industries (e.g. newsprint mill, match factory, hardboard, boat building, furniture making) are based on the raw materials obtained from the Sundarbans ecosystem. Various non-timber forest products and plantations help generate considerable employment and income generation opportunities for at least half a million poor coastal population. It also provides natural protection to life and properties of the coastal population in the cyclone prone Bangladesh.

Despite human habitations and a century of economic exploitation of the forest well into the late forty's, the Sundarbans retained a forest closure of about 70% according to the Overseas Development Administration (ODA) of the United Kingdom in 1979. At the behest of Ziaur Rahman, the President of Bangladesh, the government of the UK was then able to conduct an indepth research thanks to possession of important past records.

Forest inventories reveal a decline in standing volume of the two main commercial mangrove species — sundari (Heritiera spp.) and gewa (Excoecaria agallocha) — by 40% and 45% respectively between 1959 and 1983 (Forestal 1960 and ODA 1985). Despite a total ban on all killing or capture of wildlife other than fish and some invertebrates, it appears that there is a consistent pattern of depleted biodiversity or loss of species (notably at least six mammals and one important reptile) in this century, and that the "ecological quality of the original mangrove forest is declining" (IUCN 1994).

Source: Wikipedia Online