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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

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.

sundarbans
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.

sundarbans
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)

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