New York, Dec 12: About 40 percent of the
Sundarbans, Bangladesh`s mangrove forest, was seriously
damaged by the cyclone that struck the nation last month, the
United Nations reported on Wednesday.
A team of experts from the UNESCO, which visited there
recently, found that foliage were stripped from the branches
of trees, a large number of trees felled and the crown of
others were severely damaged in one third of the Sundarbans.
The Bangladeshi and Indian portions of the jungle were
separately listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as
the Sundarbans and Sundarbans National Park respectively.
The greatest damage was observed in east Sundarbans,
the biologically richest section of the forest, which lies in
the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the
Bay of Bengal, the experts said.
More than 3,200 people were killed and about 880 went
missing after cyclone `SIDR` struck Bangladesh on November 15,
bringing torrential rain and winds of up to 240 kmph.
The impact of the cyclone on the wildlife there, which
is the home to a number of endangered or threatened species,
including the Bengal tiger, the estuarine crocodile and the
indian python has not yet been determined.
The complex network of tidal waterways, small islands
and mudflats were the breeding grounds for fish, shrimp and
crab, providing a livelihood for an estimated 300,000 people.
The experts, in a statement released by UNESCO, warned
that the damage caused by the cyclone has left the Sundarbans
ecosystem vulnerable to poaching and other intrusions that
could jeopardize its regeneration.
Many field stations, boats, jetties and equipment of
forest department, which manages 140,000-hectare site, were
washed out to sea. The experts have called on international
donors to help Bangladesh rebuild and restore infrastructure
to protect the Sundarbans.