An Open Letter to the Government of Bangladesh – The Survival of Sundarbans Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We, the scientists, engineers, academics, medical doctors and professionals of many other disciplines of Bangladeshi heritage living abroad and in Bangladesh as well as conscientious foreign nationals and dignitaries, are gravely concerned over the survival of Sundarbans, the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove in the world. It covers around 10,000 square km, of which 60 per cent is in Bangladesh and the remainder is in India. Our concerns arise from following considerations:

1. The recent spillage of some 350,000 litres of furnace oil in a river in Mangla, about 40 km north-northwest of Sundarbans, is likely to cause immense damage to the environment threatening not only the marine lives in the mangrove forests but also the endangered spices such as the Royal Bengal Tiger. The spilled oil cuts off oxygen supply to water, thereby choking off marine life like barnacles, mussels, crabs, fishes and so forth. All marine lives that depend on downstream food chain are also affected. Already dead otters, varieties of dead fishes and other dead mammals are floating on water and swept up to the banks.
2. Birds that depends on fishes, insects and other marine lives are badly affected, not only due to lack of adequate food supply but also due to soaking in thick oil tar on the wings making them incapable of flying and thereby dying on land.
3. The damage to the flora and fauna over the longer term is immense. The non-volatile component of the spilled oil generally sticks to the trunks and roots of the mangroves of the swamps, which eventually chokes off their lives. As mangroves are slow growing plants, once they die, it will take a very long time to replace, if at all.
4. Human lives in the locality are also affected as fishing, their main and probably only livelihood, becomes non-existent. Even riverine transport, the only mode of transport, becomes impossible.
5. Damage to the mangrove forests would have devastating effect on the upper reaches of human habitation. Tidal surge, tropical storm and tornados would not have the shielding effect of the mangroves, if they are allowed to decay.
6. The proposed 1320 MW coal-fired station at Rampal is also going to affect the long term viability of this unique site. Not only the airborne toxic emission from the plant will affect the rainforest, but also human intrusion will have immense detrimental effect on the natural habitat of the forest.
7. The present trend of allowing Sundarbans to be used by the rich and powerful men in Bangladesh as their playground is also damaging the site. Significant numbers of people on large boats are given permission regularly to have picnics, wedding receptions and birthday parties, corporate entertainments etc. Although ecological damage from a single event may be imperceptibly small, but the cumulative effect of large number of intrusions is going to be quite significant.

In view of all these man-made abuses to this delicate mangrove site, which is presently given the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site may suffer irreparable damage. We are gravely concerned and we appeal to the Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh to take immediate actions to preserve this National Park for the posterity of our future generations. If strict restrictions on commercial and pleasurable activities are imposed henceforth, the site over a period of time may recover from the inflicted damage. Otherwise, Bangladesh Governments will be held responsible for presiding over the damage and destruction of the world’s largest mangrove forest and that will have grave implications on Bangladesh’s ecological credentials.

Signed by the concerned people of Bangladeshi heritage and foreign nationals:

1. Dr. Anisur Rahman – CradP MSRP FNucI, Former Principal Nuclear Safety Consultant at WS Atkins, UK
2. Dr. Peter Custers – Political Economist, Leiden, The Netherlands
3. Dr. Quamrul Haider, Professor of Physics, Fordham University, NY, USA
4. Dr. Ahrar Ahmad, Professor of Political Science, Black Hills State University, South Dakota, USA
5. Dr. Lutful Bari Bhuiyan, Professor of Physics, University of Puerto Rico
6. Dr. Sanwar Ali, Professor of Computer Science, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA
7. Dr. Mustafa Kamal, Professor of Computer Information Systems, University of Central Missouri, USA
8. Dr. Imtiaz Habib, Professor of English, Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA
9. Dr. Sanjoy Sarkar, Professor of Physics, University of Alabama, USA
10. Mr. Albab Akanda, Former employee of the Asian Development Bank, Virginia, USA
11. Dr. Parveen Ali, Assoc. Professor of Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA
12. Dr. Md Harunuzzaman, Energy Industry Consultant, Ohio, USA
13. Mr. Fazle S Quazi, CEO, Energy Conservation Technologies, Colorado, USA
14. Dr. Q M Rahman, Opthalmologist, Pittsburgh, USA
15. Mr Md Shamsuzzaman, Ph.D. Student, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
16. Ms. Shaheen Ali – MA MHSc, Retd Senior Health Planner, District Health Council, Toronto, Canada.
17. Mr. Jamal Hasan – Author and Political Analyst in USA
18. Mr Abdul Quddus, Retired Economist, Leeds, UK
19. Mr. Ansar Karim Khan – Retired Environmental Scientist, Toronto, Canada
20. Mr. Satish Kapur – Political Activist, Leicester, UK
21. Dr. Reaz Talukder – MA LLB, Retired Economist and ex-BIDS Researcher, Bangladesh, UK
22. Ms. Milia Ali, Retired World Bank Official and Tagore Singer, Virginia, USA
23. Mr. M. Shahjahan, Data Scientist and Consultant, NY, USA
24. Dr. Sheikh Rafi Ahmad, Former Head of LASER Tech., Cranfield University, UK
25. Dr. Sheheed Hussain, Former IAEA Scientist, Vienna, Austria
26. Mr. AFM Shafiqul Hafiz, Ex-Chairman, Johar Land Berhad, Malaysia
27. Dr. Farhad Hossain, Sn. Lecturer, Management Studies, University of Manchester, UK
28. Dr. Mazharul Huq, Retired Theoretical Physicist, USA
29. Dr. Tajul Islam Hashmi, Prof. of Security Studies, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee, USA
30. Mr. Jeremy Green, Nuclear Safety Consultant, Derby, UK
31. Mr. A F Rahman, Environmental Scientist, Brisbane, Australia

(If you support the cause of saving Sundarbans Rainforest, UNESCO World Heritage Site, please send it to your local MP, the Congressman or other legislators as well as to your friends and relations)