NATIONAL NEWS

‘Industries irreparably damaging Sundarbans, fish down by half’

New Delhi, May 27: Rampant industrialisation on the Bangladesh side of the Sundarbans is causing irreparable damage, with oil levels in waterbodies rising six-fold and the temperature by over four degrees, pushing wildlife to the edge and reducing the fish population by half, new research has found.
The first of its kind study, a copy of which is with IANS, compares the current condition of about 20 km radius from the periphery of the Sundarbans around the Mongla and Rampal area of Bagerhat district to that prior to 2010 before industries started flocking in.
Spread across 10,000 sq km — of which 62 per cent is in Bangladesh — the Sundarbans, lying in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1997. For Bangladesh, it accounts for 44 per cent of its forest area and 50 percent of its forest revenue.
The research on the world’s largest mangrove forests was conducted from July 2015 to June 2017. The region currently has over 300 industrial units, including 190 of what are called “severe” units like oil refinery and a cement plant, driven by a 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant that India’s NTPC is setting up at Rampal at a cost of $1.6 billion and which was sanctioned in 2010 — ostensibly to improve ties between the two countries.
While the Bangladesh government says the plant’s location, 14 km from the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, is at a safe distance, experts think otherwise. (IANS)