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4 February, 2020 01:47:52 PM


Wetlands in Bangladesh: Diversity, resources and people

M Niamul Naser PhD
Wetlands in Bangladesh: Diversity, resources and people

A wetland is a place where the land is covered by water, either fresh, salt or somewhere in between. Marshes and ponds, the edge of a lake or ocean, the delta at the mouth of a river, low-lying areas, floodplains, all of these are wetlands (WWW 2019).  The Ramsar Convention, formulated and signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, is the only global treaty for wetlands.  Today 170 nations are signatories to the Ramsar Convention and Bangladesh is one of them.

A contracting party agrees to select at least one wetland in its territory to the List of Wetlands of International Importance based on enumerated criteria.  Under this agreements, by August 6, 2018, over 2323 wetlands were inscribed on the Ramsar List, comprising over 248 million ha (Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2018).  To date, Bangladesh has two Ramsar sites, the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans,  and Tanguar Haor and proposed Hakaluki Haor.  The Sunderbans is situated at the Southwest corner of Bangladesh, with India, is the largest mangrove wetland of the world.   Two other Ramsar sites, Hakaluki Haor and Tanguar Haor, situated at the north-eastern part of the country.
Sunderbans is unique for the home of the critically endangered Royal Bengal Tiger and Freshwater dolphins as well as other wildlife.  Tanguar haor is often called the nursery grounds of more than 137 species freshwater fishes.  Hakaluki haor is famous for sheltering more than 558 species of animals and birds, of which majority are migratory.  Besides these Ramsar sites, there are thousands of wetlands all over Bangladesh.  

The wetland is the home of diverse plants and animals. Out of 1218 vertebrate species recorded by the zoologists of the country, about 691 vertebrate species live in wetlands, while many utilize the habitat for breeding and nursery purposes.  Exclusively there are more than 265 species of fishes, 49 amphibians, 160 reptiles, 208 aquatic birds and 9 mammals, those live in wetlands areas.     In other words, most terrestrial animals are also depending on wetlands as part of their lifecycle.

Historically the total population is dependent upon the wetland.  For agriculture majority of the crops grows in the vicinity of wetland.  The major crops like paddy, jute, sugarcane and fish need exclusive water to farm. Besides agriculture farmer, jeley (fishermen), majhii (boatman) and bedey (water gypsy) are exclusively water dweller (Brandt 2015). Recently wetland been used for duck rearing, floating vegetable farming, cage fish culture and local tourism purposes.     

Amphibians need protection from irrational use of agrochemicals in wetlands where almost all fishes and amphibians lay eggs and tadpoles would nursed. This group needs thorough surveys to determine species specific wetlands and their ecology, livelihoods dependency and biological  importance as pest control.

Reptiles include diverge groups of turtles and tortoises, lizards and snakes, crocodiles and gharials that outwardly look unrelated to each other.  Also, there are excessive killings of turtles and tortoises to meet the local and illegal transboundary  trade demands for their meat and shells. Snakes’ sufferings from instant killing, anybody sees a snake would opt to kill it. This group is heavily exploited for snake-charming trait and meat, skin and venom trade. Places where gharials are sighted are to be protected by declaring each area and managing these as gharial sanctuaries. The lone population of the Estuarine Crocodile in the Sundarbans be managed scientifically and current level of supports to be enhanced. All trades in reptiles to be stopped.  Aquatic birds being the most dominant wildlife of the country is suffering from the habitat destruction, habitat alterations, over use for meat and pet trade, general ignorance towards the needs of more than half of the species of birds being too small and not gaudy. Illegal hunting, trapping and poisoning of the migratory and local birds be stopped at all costs and law breakers to be punished severely.

Each wetlands where habitats are nearly or partly lost by siltation/ sedimentation needs to be re-excavate or dredge to restore water resources and make it ecologically friendly for all living organisms. There could be a study for development of a model  to restructure the unique resources for restoring living organisms, increasing biological productivities, creating income generating opportunities by tourism, aquaculture, duck rearing, recreational facilities etc.  

The writer is Professor of Zoology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Dhaka, Dhaka



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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