Change in Marine Ecosystem
M Masud Chowdhury focuses on the factors behind the change in ecosystems in southern
part of the Sundarbans, creating frustration among the people who are fishing in the area


RELATIVELY stable and vibrant marine ecosystems in southern-tip of the Sundarbans reserved forest (SRF) and adjoining off-shore islands are battling against 'visible changes' in the last couple of months.

Scores of big turtles are dying on the sea beaches adjacent to the SRF almost everyday for some undetected reasons. Experienced deep-sea fishermen in Dubla and other nearby islands of Bay of Bengal said that the sea was behaving in a weird-style this year.

Ventilating frustration, some of the fishermen said resource-rich "Swatch of No Ground" in deep sea is not giving positive response this year. They said that the southern islands of Sundarbans forest and 'fish-rich Swatch of No Ground' allured them to voyage all the way from their ancestral home in Kutubdia and other islands of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar in October 2000.

"Last year (2000) we spent wonderful time in Dubla and nearby offshore islands. The sea was full of different fishes. Our fishing company earned a huge profit, said Anil Baharder, one of the leading fishermen. But this year we have decided to wind up our deep sea fishing mission in the last week of February," he added.

Echoing similar views Saber Ahmed of Kabir fishing company (Kutubdia Island), who had established independent wharf in Dubla island for downloading fishes, said illegal trawlers from Thailand, India and Myanmar were active in the Bay in hunting huge fishes.

"Some of the local fishermen are hunting baby-sharks to fill up their buckets this year," he said.

Marine ecologists admitted that the pattern of ecosystems in southern part of Sundarbans encountered change in the last few years. But they rejected the proposition that large-scale contamination had gripped waters of Bay of Bengal.

Big invertebrates like Jellyfish with long tentacles are visible on the surface waters within four to five kilometres off from Dubla and other offshore islands, they said adding that presence of Jellyfish, Octopuses and baby sharks in coastal water are indicative of good health of marine ecosystems.

The recent deaths of big turtles in the southern coast of Sundarbans are linked with some other factors, they said.

A draft report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change called "Considering Adaptation to Climate Change in the Sustainable Development in Bangladesh" has warned that the change could lead to a drop in the number of fresh-water (brackish) plants.

"Eventually, the species offering dense canopy cover in the Sundarbans would be gradually replaced by non-woody shrubs and bushes," the report said.

The process also could lead to extinction or degradation of the rich flora and fauna, including Bangladesh's Royal Bengal tigers which are on an endangered species list.

The Sundarbans, which stretch to neighbouring India's West Bengal state, is one of the United Nations' World Heritage sites.

Source: The Financial Express,15 March2001