Tapos Kanti Das, Staff Correspondent
The Unnayan Onneshan, CLEAN and Forest People Programme jointly organised the discussion on ‘Unprotected Sundarban and our responsibilities.’ Forest officials, civic group leaders, green activists and NGO personnel attended the programme. The CLEAN chief executive, Hasan Mehedi, read out the keynote paper.
The divisional forest officer of Sundarban west zone, Abani Bhushan Thakur, Professor Zafar Imam and Professor Dilip Datta of Khulna University, Nazmul Azam David of Paribartan, Sheikh Abu Hasan Bakul of Muktir Alo and journalist Shamim Ashraf Shelley, among others, spoke.
The forest department has 76 camps and 178 forest guards to guard 6,017 square kilometre area of Sundarban including more than 400 rivers, said Mehedi, in his keynote paper. At present, he said, only 2.25 forest guards on average guard 79 square kilometre area of the forest under each camp. The number is too inadequate to protect the area, he added.
Besides, proper patrolling in the rivers passing by Sundarban cannot be done due to limited number of water vessels, he said, adding that Sundarban forest division has only 61 water vessels with each vessel patrolling 99 square kilometer area. At least 120 water vessels are needed for patrolling in the rivers passing by the forest, he observed.
He also mentioned that the wireless system in Sundarban that collapsed in cyclone Sidr on November 15, 2007 is yet to be restored, hampering quick communication from one place to another in the forest area. He also said a significant number of arms used by the forest guards had remained out of order for long and the forest employees working in the forest pass every moment at high risk.
The speakers stressed that the forest department should increase the number of forest guards and water vessels and forest guards should be equipped with modern arms. They also urged the government to allocate risk allowance for the forest employees.