Kolkata: The World Bank has taken up a mega-project, touted to be the first of its kind, for conserving the rich biodiversity and boosting socio-economic development of the Sundarbans area in West Bengal.
"This has been done according to the recommendation of the Planning Commission of India and (the project) is expected to be complete at the end of this year," state`s Sundarbans Affairs Minister Shyamal Mondal said.
The project will be prepared by an international professional organisation, Mondal said, adding under this integrated plan, investment and the planning process could be framed in a well-defined manner.
Steps are also being taken to develop this world heritage site and the biggest mangrove forest, straddling the state and neighbouring Bangladesh, as a major tourist destination
promoted jointly by India, Bangladesh and the World Bank, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said recently.
Mondal claimed that under Left Front Government, no integrated plan was prepared for all round and sustainable development of the Sundarbans region.
The development in the region has so far been made with the State Plan Fund and assistance from the Centre was sporadic and mostly selective area-wise, he alleged.
Stressing on the need to fulfil the basic needs of the people of Sundarbans, he said the government was committed to improve the standard of living of the locals.
The department celebrated `Sundarban Dibas` on August 21 to generate mass awareness on the conservation of Sundarbans biosphere and its ecology among the inhabitants, especially school children of this region, he said.
However, some environmentalists claimed that exploitation of natural resources was creating pressure on the ecology and biosphere of this world heritage site.
The change due to global warming imposes serious problems on the rich biodiversity and ecology of this region making it more vulnerable, the experts said.
Some of the important species of flora and fauna are already extinct and many are on the verge of extinction.
Any minor change in the ecological balance of this sensitive biosphere may impose long-term effect in this region as well as in the adjacent areas of the state, they added.
Over 10,000 sq km of the Sundarbans covering India and Bangladesh, comprises a vast area of reserve forests and tidal rivers.