Threats to Sundarbans thicken


Dangers continue to loom large over the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Not only has a blind eye been turned to the public protests against the coal-fired Rampal power plant being set up under Bangladesh-India joint venture project in the forest’s vicinity, but a large number of other proposed industries in the area have been given the thumbs up.

According to a report in yesterday’s Prothom Alo, the national environment committee, the country’s highest government authority on environment, at a meeting on Sunday approved of 320 industrial units in the Sundarban area. Of these, 186 were already in existence and now are being given approval. Directives were also issued for the renewal of the clearance issued by the department of environment for 118 new industrial units in 2015, and also for the approval of 16 new ones. In other words, rather than searching for ways to save the Sundarbans, the government’s decisions are further endangering the already embattled forest.

The decision of the national environment committee is in conflict with the country’s environment conservation laws. The forest and environment ministry had declared the area within a 10-mile radius of the Sundarbans as an ecologically critical zone where the protection of the forest and the wildlife would have to be ensured at first before any development work was taken up. And UNESCO also has said that no heavy industries could be set up in the area without a strategic environmental assessment.

The national environment committee’s decisions on Sunday do not reflect any commitment of the government towards protecting the Sundarbans. The committee was expected to have taken a positive stance for the preservation of the forest.

The nod given at the meeting for further industries to be set up in the area will have an overall negative impact. This will encourage further environmentally harmful initiatives all over the country.

This cannot be permitted. Permission for further industries around the Sundarbans must not be allowed.

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