Alternative jobs for forest-dependent people stressed

DHAKA, April 28 (BSS) – The government has undertaken a plan to turn the Sundarbans into an attractive tourist spot to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest from extinction, Health Minister Prof Dr AFM Ruhal Haque said today.

He felt the necessity of creating alternative jobs for the ‘forest-dependent’ people, saying that the jobs would surely help cut the dependence of forest-dwellers on forest resources.

He was inaugurating a workshop titled ‘Sundarbans-centric Mass Awareness’ at CSS Ava Centre in Khulna.

Khulna Forest Department at CSS Ava Centre arranged the workshop with support from a four-year project dubbed Sundarbans Environmental and Livelihood Securities’ (SEALS).

Forest conservator M Akbar Hossain presided over the function while Khulna City Corporation Mayor Talukdar Abdul Khalek spoke as the special guest.

Among others, Chief Conservator of Forest M Yunus Ali, Divisional Commissioner M Moshiur Rahman and forest officer Zahir Uddin Ahmed also addressed the program.

Ruhal called upon the forest officials, locals and professionals of different sectors to work in a coordinated manner for protecting the Sundarbans.

The speakers informed that as many as 25 lakh people, of them six lakh directly, are dependent on the Sundarbans and the rate of dependence on the forest resources is on the rise. The project is being implemented since 2011 at a cost of Taka 127.92 crore with financial support from the European Union (EU).

The project is aimed at increasing the skills of forest officials and lessening the dependence of forest people on forest resources by providing them with alternative job opportunities.

The Sundarbans stretches from Bangladesh into India’s coastal belt in West Bengal.

The area of the Bangladesh Sundarbans is roughly 6017 square kilometre, of which roughly 1874 square kilometre is water area and only 1400 square kilometre of the total Sundarbans forest is declared as protected area.

It features a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests.

The area is home to a wide range of fauna, with the Royal Bengal Tiger being the most famous, but also including many birds, spotted deer, crocodiles and snakes to feast nature’s bounty.