Mangrove forest in Bangladesh devastated by recent cyclone – UN expert team
About 40 per cent of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh’s renowned mangrove forest, was seriously damaged by the deadly cyclone that struck the delta nation last month, according to a team of experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that has just visited the area.
The experts found that foliage has been stripped from the branches of trees in nearly a third of the Sundarbans, which was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997, while numerous large trees have been felled and the crowns of others severely damaged.
The greatest damage has been observed in the East Sundarbans, the biologically richest section of the forest, which lies in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal.
More than 3,200 people are confirmed to have been killed and almost 880 others remain missing as a result of Cyclone Sidr, which struck Bangladesh on 15 November, bringing torrential rain and winds of up to 240 kilometres per hour.
The experts have not yet been able to determine the impact of the cyclone on the wildlife in the Sundarbans, which is home to numerous endangered or threatened species, such as the Bengal tiger, the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python. Its complex network of tidal waterways, small islands and mudflats are also breeding grounds for fish, shrimp and crab, providing a livelihood for an estimated 300,000 people.
In a press statement released by UNESCO at its Paris headquarters, the experts warned that the damage caused by Cyclone Sidr has left the Sundarbans ecosystem vulnerable to poaching and other intrusions that could jeopardize its regeneration.
Many field stations, boats, jetties and equipment operated by the country’s Forest Department has been washed out to sea, compromising the Department’s capacity to manage the 140,000-hectare site.
The experts called on international donors to help Bangladesh rebuild and restore its infrastructure and replace the lost boats and communication equipment so that it can better protect the Sundarbans.
UNESCO is already assisting the country’s authorities to rehabilitate schools that were damaged by the storm, while UN relief agencies are also at work helping in the reconstruction of the South Asian country.