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Abuse of Sundarbans uninhabited lands soon to be taken care of

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Kolkata: The exploitation of uninhabited islands of the Sundarbans by anti-national elements and the need for comprehensive mapping of the area was discussed at length at a meeting of defence and security agencies here on Friday.

The issue cropped up at the second annual lead intelligence agency conference for stakeholders of West Bengal and Odisha at the headquarters, Coast Guard Region (Northeast). The Indian Coast Guard is the lead intelligence agency for coastal borders and the coordinating agency for coastal security.

With 48 of the 102 islands in the Sundarbans uninhabited, the exploitation of such islands by the anti-national elements was deliberated upon by the agencies which included navy, army, Central Industrial Security Force, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, besides the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, Border Security Force, National Security Guards and Coastal Police.

Comprehensive mapping of Sundarbans and augmentation of Marine Police for an effective surveillance also came up during the talks.

The conference focussed on hammering out the hurdles for forming the formidable Intelligence Network in both the states for an integrated seamless flow of information among central and state agencies, a Coast Guard release said.

The vulnerabilities owing to reasons of topography and riverine patches along India-Bangladesh borders was one of the most key agenda of the conference.

The porous nature of the border in the recent past has led to numerous trans-border problems including infiltration, smuggling of arms and contraband goods, and illegal movement into West Bengal. (IANS)

(Picture Courtesy:archive.thedailystar.net)

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Sundarbans on List of ‘Natural Sites in Danger’

The government had been allowed until December 2018 at the time to report on the conservation of the world's largest mangrove forest to the World Heritage Centre

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"The hydrological systems, which drive this dynamics, are very large in scale and vulnerable to upstream impacts," it added. Wikimedia Commons

The official advisory organisation on natural World Heritage has recommended putting the Sundarbans on a list of ‘natural sites in danger’ as Bangladesh has continued implementing a coal-fired power plant project near the forest.

The World Heritage Committee of 21 governments is scheduled to decide on the recommendations by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its annual meeting in Azerbaijan from June 30 to July 10, bdnews24 reported on Saturday

In July 2017, Unesco withdrew a plan to inscribe the Sundarbans in the list of heritage sites in danger by 2018 in case of the failure to meet the mission’s recommendations. The government had been allowed until December 2018 at the time to report on the conservation of the world’s largest mangrove forest to the World Heritage Centre.

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File:Bengal Tiger in rain at Sundarban. Wikimedia Commons

A reactive monitoring mission, jointly conducted by the Centre and IUCN in March 2016, made detailed recommendations including the necessity of a strategic environmental assessment for the south-west region. After the mission, the World Heritage Committee had called for the Rampal power plant project to be cancelled and relocated.

The committee had welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to carry out the assessment into the potential impact of a coal-based thermal plant, besides the decisions to scrap the plant’s second phase and also the Orion power plant.

In an article on its website, IUCN on June 7 this year said it recommended listing of the Sundarbans, Mexico’s Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California and the Ohrid region in North Macedonia as “World Heritage in danger”. It cited severe threats from coal-fired power plants and numerous industrial activities in close proximity.

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The government had been allowed until December 2018 at the time to report on the conservation of the world’s largest mangrove forest to the World Heritage Centre. Wikimedia Commons

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Despite the call for relocation of the project, its construction has continued without any assessment of its impact on the Sundarbans’ World Heritage values, the Union said. Two additional coal-fired power plants are being constructed on the Payra River, which flows into the same bay as the Sundarbans, according to IUCN.

Over 150 industrial projects are also active upstream of the site, and their associated shipping and dredging activities further threaten its hydrological and ecological dynamics, it said. “The hydrological systems, which drive this dynamics, are very large in scale and vulnerable to upstream impacts,” it added. (IANS)