Sundarbans Management Project (SMP)

Project description 

Title: Management of the Sundarbans Mangrove Forests for Biodiversity Conservation and Increased Adaptation to Climate Change (SMP)
Commissioned by: The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Bangladesh
Lead executing agency: Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
Overall term: 2015 to 2019

Bangladesh. Spotted deer, an endemic species of the Sundarbans, is the main prey species for the endangered royal Bengal tiger. ©GIZ/Fahad Kaizer

The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world, covering 10,000 square kilometres in India and Bangladesh. They are classified as UNESCO World Heritage, as well as a Ramsar wetland site. The 6,000 square kilometres that make up the Sundarbans Reserve Forest in Bangladesh are as yet relatively undisturbed.

Although there are no permanent settlements inside the Sundarbans, human influences still affect the forest – both directly, through the unsustainable use of resources by the communities on the periphery, and indirectly, through agricultural practices and hydrologic interventions outside the Reserve. Adverse impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events and gradual sea level rise, are further threats. Bangladesh's coastal population depends directly or indirectly on the Sundarbans, as they make their living from forestry, fishing, agriculture and collecting honey. Because the Sundarbans eco-system plays a crucial role as a buffer between the land and sea, its effective conservation is essential to the coastal people’s survival.

The Bangladesh Forest Department of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is the official custodian of the forest reserve, but it is just one of a multifaceted group of stakeholders which are involved in its management to varying degrees. The long-term conservation of the forest’s biodiversity can only be guaranteed if all stakeholders collaborate, including the people living adjacent to it.

The institutional and organisational framework has improved, enabling the management of the Sundarbans in a manner adapted to climate change.

Bangladesh. Field staff planning SMART patrols in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest. ©GIZ / Fahad Kaizer

To ensure the management of the natural resources in the protected mangrove forests proceeds more equitably and in a participatory manner, the project supports a co-management approach. It works in four main areas:

  1. Further development of co-management instruments:
    By engaging local communities, civil society organisations and the local administration, the project enhances institutional and human capacities in co-management structures. Experiences gained in the field are fed into national policies and further improvements to the underlying conditions.
  2. Strengthening the capacities of the Bangladesh Forest Department:
    The Department is comprehensively building up its capacities for the management of the Sundarbans. This entails individual training for its staff members as well as organisational development.
  3. Enhancing stakeholder coordination:
    To contribute to the long-term protection of the Sundarbans and their biodiversity, the project is consolidating the cooperation and coordination of the various stakeholders, including other government agencies, donors, the local administration and civil society organisations. This enables the use of synergies and avoids the duplication of efforts.
  4. Knowledge management and biodiversity monitoring:
    The Forest Department is acquiring the necessary capacities to better evaluate structured and organised data about the Sundarbans. To this end, the project is developing and introducing a consistent approach to monitoring and data collection, as well as an interactive knowledge sharing platform open to all stakeholders.
The activities focusing on protected areas and co-management at the local level are supported by GOPA Consultants.


In collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, USAID and the World Bank, the project is supporting the Bangladesh Forest Department in planning, evaluating and implementing its anti-poaching and bio-monitoring measures more effectively. Central to this approach is the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART). This combines software, training and patrolling standards designed to measure, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of forest patrols and stationary conservation activities.

So far, the project has provided training as trainers for 28 frontline staff of the Department. They in turn have trained a further 72 forest guards. These have now undertaken their first forest patrols. Data collected by them is already helping the Department to make better management decisions and contributing to an improved knowledge base on the Sundarbans.

Bangladesh. Mud crab hatcheries supported by the project reduce the pressure on wild crab populations in the Sundarbans and enhance local livelihoods. © GIZ / Fahad Kaizer