THE SUNDARBANS OF BANGLADESH: ITS BIODIVERSITY, ETHNOBOTANY AND CONSERVATIONM. N. AMIN
The legendary world famous Sundarbans generates many myths, of which some are regarding its present naming as well. It is undoubtedly the largest mangrove system in the world.The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in 1997 inscribed the Sundarbans as the world heritage site in Bangladesh. The forest is unique for supporting an exceptional biodiversity with a wide range of flora and fauna and simultaneous functioning of the significant ecological processes; monsoon rains, flooding, delta formation, tidal influence, and plant colonization and climax formation. Sundarbans is the most important forest among the original vegetations of Bangladesh. It supports many industries by supplying raw materials as well local economy and professional groups by providing subsistence, and employing neighbouring people for their survival and livelihood. The Sundarbans provides ideal habitats for a variety of unique plants and animals, of which some are endemic to it. The forest is rich in biodiversity with about 334 species of plants, 270 species of birds, 42 species of mammals and 210 species of fishes and myriads of reptiles, amphibians, and molluscs. The forest has a glorious past; but it has lost more than one-third of its area during the recent past due to mass destruction of the forest ecosystem by anthropogenic activities. Considering the immense importance of and threats to Sundarbans, there is an urgent need for protecting the biologically, environmentally and ethnobotanically significant forest. A holistic and integrated approach involving modern conservation techniques, community participation and use of indigenous knowledge is, therefore, essential for the conservation of Sundarbans en route to biocultural restoration of the mangrove ecosystem. Thus, the responsible ministries should formulate appropriate policies for an effective integrated conservation strategy.
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