Sunday, 5 December, 2021
E-paper

Wind of peace blows in the Sundarbans

► Tourists increase in the mangrove forest ► Fishermen not facing any hindrance

The wind of peace has been blowing in the Sundarbans for three years, thanks to the Awami League-led government’s efforts to free the mangrove forest from the clutches of bandits.

The healthy atmosphere attracts tourists to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, and fishermen continue to fish without any trouble.

On November 1 in 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the Sundarbans free from criminal gangs. Today is the third anniversary of the bandit-free Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site in Bangladesh.  Tourists from home and abroad can visit the site without any fear while people managing meals centring the forest do not have to pay their hard-earned money to anyone.

Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, director general of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), said now fragrance of peace is wafting in the Sundarbans. Kidnappings and killings are no longer seen in the forest.

He said fishermen do not have to pay their share of hard-earned money to anyone.

Mawali and Bawali -- dwellers of the Sundarbans -- and wild animals are all living peacefully. Now tourists, visitors, sailors can go to the forest without fear.

The world’s largest mangrove forest is being held hostage by pirates and pirates in the 1980s. In 2012, under the direction of the Prime Minister, the Director General of RAB was made the Chief Coordinator and a task force was formed to curb bandits in the Sundarbans, RAB sources said.

Since 2012, the robbers have been trapped in the RAB’s joint operation as the lead agency. Because of the continuous operations, the bandits chose to surrender, ending the unhappy life.

It is learnt that the largest force of bandits in the Sundarbans ‘Master Bahini’ surrendered to Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan in 2016.

Then one by one, robbers began to return to normal life. Many bandits big and small began to surrender to the government. The Sundarbans continues to be free from bandits.

Finally, on November 1 in 2018, the bandits of Sattar Bahini, Sharif Bahini, Siddique Bahini, Al-Amin Bahini, Anarul Bahini and Tayyab Bahini surrendered at Bagerhat Stadium.

On that day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the Sundarbans free of criminal gangs after the last remaining pirate gangs surrendered.

The Prime Minister said, “From now on, the Sundarbans will be free of bandits. The robbers responded to our call and surrendered.”

RAB chief Abdullah Al Mamun said the RAB conducted a bandit-free operation in the Sundarbans from May 31, 2016 to January 1, 2018. At that time, 328 members of 32 bandit gangs surrendered to the RAB along with 426 weapons and 33,504 rounds of ammunition. After being completely free of bandits, on November 1, 2018, the Prime Minister declared the Sundarbans bandit-free.

As a result, after 40 long years, the entire Sundarbans is free from the fear of bandits.

After Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the Sundarbans free of bandits through a videoconference on November 1 in 2018, the wind of peace is blowing in the mangrove forest.

The biodiversity of this World Heritage Site has been saved from the hands of the bandits.

Kidnapping of fishermen and foresters for ransom, and hunting and trafficking of deer, tigers and crocodiles as demanded by local and foreign smugglers have been stopped.

RAB Chief Abdullah Al Mamun said the RAB has been trying to maintain that success for the last three years. Since then, humanitarian assistance has been provided on different occasions. The government has given Tk 1 lakh to each of those who have returned to normal life. The RAB has also provided humanitarian, financial and social assistance at different times.

He said, “One thing is much harder to grasp than to achieve. To maintain the success of the bandit-free Sundarbans, we have set up two camps at Dublar Char and Munshiganj. We’re doing regular foot patrol and naval patrol. Helicopter patrols if necessary. Full-time intelligence surveillance. We are also monitoring those who have surrendered.”

The Sundarbans mangrove forest covers an area of about 10,000sqkm -- of which forests in Bangladesh’s Khulna Division extend over 6,017sqkm and in West Bengal, they extend over 4,260sqkm.

The most abundant tree species are sundari (Heritiera fomes) and gewa (Excoecaria agallocha). The forests provide habitat to 453 faunal wildlife, including 290 bird, 120 fish, 42 mammal, 35 reptile and eight amphibian species.

It is also a centre of economic activities, such as extraction of timber, fishing and collection of honey. The forest consists of about 200 islands, separated by about 400 interconnected tidal rivers, creeks and canals.