The Environment Ministers of both India and Bangladesh, Mr Prakash Javedkar and Mr Anwar Hossain Manju, have unequivocally stressed the need for joint action to protect the Sundarbans, world’s largest mangrove forest.
The ministers were speaking at an event organised on the Sundarbans at the sidelines of CoP21 meeting in Paris on December 9, 2015. It was organised by Observer Research Foundation, on behalf of the Bangladesh-India Sundarbans Region Initiative (BISRCI), and in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, Government of India.
Roundtable on Sundarban at COP21
This event became a landmark as for the first time, the Environment Ministers of both India and Bangladesh came together to discuss the survival of Sundarbans in an international event.
Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site and the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem, is home to more than 13 million people and the famous Royal Bengal Tigers. Shared by India and Bangladesh, the existence of this region is under threat due to the impact of climate change.
It was under this backdrop that ORF decided to organise a discussion on the region at the climate talks in Paris where leaders from around the world had assembled to discuss ways to mitigate climate change.
Besides the ministers from India and Bangladesh, many experts from both the countries took part the discussion. They discussed in detail various adaptation and mitigation issues concerning Sundarban.
The Chief Guest at the programme was India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mr Javadekar. Bangladesh’s Minister for Environment and Forest, Mr Manju was the Special Guest.
Mr. Javadekar said Sundarbans may be falling within the boundaries of two countries, but tigers know no boundary and they have to be preserved. He said the two countries have already agreed to have a joint management plan to preserve the Sundarban. He said he will be meeting the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms Mamata Bannerjee, to discuss how to work out a joint management plan.
Bangladesh Minister Manju said that the joint plan to protect Sundarban from climate change is an important initiative and his country would wholeheartedly support it. He said there is a need to work on how the climate vulnerability of the Sundarban can be raised on global platforms jointly and much more strongly.
Explicating about importance of Sundarban and emphasising on the need for preserving this ecosystem, one of the speakers said Sundarbans is not only about tiger but much more than it. The speaker pointed out that Sundarbans has got lots of nature’s bounty and it protects many towns and villages in the coastal areas of India and Bangladesh from natural disasters. There is cooperation between the two countries on preservation of Sundarban but this cooperation should lead to jointly managing the large eco system, the speaker said.
Talking about how India-Bangladesh cooperation can impact the life of the people living there, another speaker opined that the two countries can cooperate on areas like eco-tourism. It was also pointed out that Bangladesh could learn from the Indian experiences on ecotourism.
Referring to India’s theme of climate justice, one of the participants pointed out that cooperation on Sundarban has a great potential.
Favouring joint management of Sundarbans, one speaker said that the past cannot be guide to our future. It is time to think about the future. The Sundarban initiative could be a beginning. The large countries will have to cooperate with neighbours to adopt effective measures.
Talking about the geostrategic importance of Sundarban and the impact of climate change, a speaker said that it’s time to reimagine our strategic thinking. Nations and states should take steps to redesign their boundaries in cognisance to the geographical realities.
There was consensus among participants that considering the unique geographical construct of Sundarbans, cooperation between India and Bangladesh to fight climate change is necessary and immediate.
Dr Ravi Singh, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of WWF India, Dr Ganesh Panagare, Region Direction Asia IWA, Dr Uttam Sinha, Research Fellow at IDSA, Mr J.M. Mauskar, Distinguished Fellow at ORF, Dr Ainun Nishat, Adviser at Policy Research Institute, Dhaka and others participated in the round table discussion, moderated by Mr. Pinak Chakravarty, Distinguished Fellow at ORF and a former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
The discussion was organised by ORF on behalf of the BISRCI, a platform of civil society organisations of India and Bangladesh working on Surdarbans. Its key partners are the International Water Association, Observer Research Foundation, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, EnGIO, WWF India and PRI.
(This report is prepared by Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)