India, B'desh to crack down on smuggling of animals
Kolkata: In a significant stride to prevent wildlife smuggling and keep track on straying of animals, India and Bangladesh will separately set up a protection camp each at the border. This was decided at an international level bipartite meeting regarding Sundarbans held in New Delhi recently.
"Both the governments agreed that there should be more readiness in the borders to counter illegal wildlife trade and straying of animals. Monitoring needs a total revamp at the borders. We will be soon coming out with a protocol designating the role of both the countries in case of straying," said a senior official in the state Forest department who attended the meeting.
Last year, a river terrapin popularly known as Batagur Baska had strayed in the Bengal side of the Sundarbans. The animal was radio collared by Bangladesh and when it crossed over to the Bengal side, it was monitored round the clock till it went back to the Bangladesh side.
An incident of tiger straying was reported way back in 2011 when an animal crossed over from this side to Bangladesh, while the carcass of a Bangladeshi tiger was found on the Bengal side.
It may be mentioned that two MoUs were signed on behalf of both the governments in 2011 for mutual maintenance of the ecological quality of the mangrove forest.
Despite a total ban on all killing or capture of wildlife other than fish and some invertebrates, it appears that there has been a consistent pattern of depleted biodiversity or loss of species in the 20th century.
There has been only a handful of such bipartite meetings and exchange of information on the part of the two countries, even though the MoU was signed eight years ago. The role of Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) was also deliberated. The review of mutual training programmes of forest officials of both the governments and census of tigers conducted jointly was also made.
The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal. Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO world heritage sites, viz Sundarbans National Park, Sundarbans West, Sundarbans South and Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Spanning over around 10,000 sq km of area, the Sundarbans forest is shared between the two countries. Around 4,262 sq km of the total forest area is in India, while the remaining part is in Bangladesh. In Bengal, the forest spreads across the South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas districts.