Khulna: 19 August 2010
Three problems have made the world’s largest mangrove forest the Sundrbans have become unprotected. The problems are necessary manpower to guard the home of world famous Royal Bengal tiger, maximum number of water vessels of the forest are not in shape and dearth of fuel has put the officers and employees into trouble. Taking these advantages, the wood smugglers have become more active and smuggling of woods have increased.
Concerned sources said about 100 water vessels of the Sunderbans western zone authorities are not in operation, estimated value of which is 50 crore taka. The water vessels include four motor launches of British period, country boat and new country boat, patrol boat and accommodation boat are 27, seven cabin cruisers, speed boat four, one accommodation barge, one water barge, two rescue boat, 15 different type of trawlers and 39 dingi boat.
Due to lack of maintenance about 88 water vessels were out of order. Of them 47 in khulna range, and six in Khulna forest station and 32 in different stations of Satkhira. All these vessels are lying for long due to maintenance. But 28 vessels are repairable, but the others vessels are not operable. The officials of these water vessels are lying idle for years together and taking salary.
Sources said the forest department needs one crore six lakh taka to repair the 28 usable water vessels while three motor launch repair will take taka 40 lakh and the country boar and the new country boat, patrol boat and accommodation boats require 29 lakh 77 thousand taka and the speed repairing will take 3.5 lakh taka.
One the one side, so many waters vessels are inoperative, but there is no adequate fuel for the13 vessels now running. For this reason, the workers of the forest department only guard a few places, but most part of the vessels lie unprotected, which has increased the activities of the smugglers as they are feeing safe in their trade.
During the last five months, police, coast guards and the workers of the forest department seized 5,500 CFT of woods. Since there is no patrolling, the smugglers are feeling safe. Moreover, the Sundarbans western zone has shortage of manpower. There are 593 posts of officers and employees for maintenance of the largest mangrove forest of the world, 93 posts are falling vacant for long time.
Sources said three range officers of Khulna and Satkhira ranges and Khulna Sadar are lying vacant for over a year and there no move to fill the posts, which is hampering official works of two ranges. The Sunderbans earns crore of taka annually, but the water vessels needed for its protection are not being repaired. The concerned authorities are least bothered to resolve these problems, which made the smugglers active.
Divisional officer of the western zone of the Sunderbans Avani Bhusan Thakur said the present government has kept close watch on the Sundarbans. Moreover patrolling has been increased than in the past. He said they have applied to the ministry to repair the water vessels, fill the vacant post and remove the shortage of fuel. “We are hoping that the problems would go soon”.