The Sundarban is the largest halophytic mangrove forest in the world, consisting of various types of trees and shrubs that grow in saline waters and sediment habitats. The name Sundarban literally means “a beautiful forest” if translated into the native language of Bengal. The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees (the mangrove species Heritiera fomes) that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers. The natural mangrove forest lies in the South West part of Bangladesh, which is a large block of natural forest with an area of about 3861 square miles. The forest is home to around 334 species of trees, epiphytes, shrubs and about 269 species of wild animals living in their natural habitats. The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sundarban is most famous for the Royal Bengal Tiger, a rare species of tiger of which only 440 remain in the forests of Sundarbans. It has been classified as endangered by the IUCN since 2010. Among other animals, Sundarban is also famous for several species of deer, foxes, wildcats, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, and birds of various species.
The Sundarban is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. Sundarban lies in the world’s largest natural river delta formed by three large rivers of Bangladesh, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, also known as “the river of rain”. The natural beauty of the Sunderbans and the surrounding area is really spectacular.
The breathtaking sites at the Sundarbans have been enhanced by thousands of creeks, rivers, and meandering streams. For miles and miles, you would see green treetops that form a large unbroken canopy of dense forest. While nearer to the ground, you would see high and ebb tide marks on the soil formed by river sediment, tree trunks and the many varieties of the natural mangrove trees and roots.(Source: Bangladesh: Queen of natural beauty: Sundarban)
The forest inventory of 1998 exhibits that there are 12.26 million cubic meter timber available from the species of Sundri (Heritiera fomes), Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), Keora (Sonneratia apetala), Baen (Avecennia officinalis), Dhundul (Xylocarpus granatum), Passur (Xylocarpus mekongensis) etc with 15cm and above in diameter. (Source: Bangladesh Forest Department)
The Sundarban Reserved Forest offers various attractions and adventures to the inquisitive tourist and visitor. It is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, and a Biosphere Reserve. Prior to 1900, there were no real government incentives or policies to manage the natural resources of the forest and the government concentrated on revenue collection. The development process along the coast line, climatic changes, and human activities, such as poaching, hunting, and pollution deeply affected the natural habitats of the forest, and there are several species such as the Java Rhinos and Dolphins that have been reported to be extinct.
Sundarban has a major impact on the economy of Bangladesh. It supports a large community of fishermen. It also supplies a major source of income to the farmers and people who use timber and other resources from the forest to support their families, making a living based on the natural resources from the forest. Recently, there has been more awareness among people to save natural resources and more real forest management and preservation plans have been implemented. Currently, wildlife protection and preservation agencies are actively guarding these natural resources.
However, according to experts, a significant amount of improvement in skills and capacity of the Forest Department of Bangladesh, extensive training for improving forest management, as well as more community participation, and mass public awareness is still necessary for safeguarding this natural asset of the country.
Source: Nourish The Planet
Video credit: Free Documentary
Photo credit: Wikipedia