Conserving biodiversity, improving management of the Sundarbans mangrove forests
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)
Lead executing agency: Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forests
Overall term: 2015 to 2019
The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world, covering 10,000 square kilometres in India and Bangladesh. The forest is a UNESCO World Heritage, as well as a Ramsar Site. The 6,000 square kilometres that make up the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bangladesh are as yet relatively undisturbed.
Although there are no permanent settlements inside the Sundarbans, human activity still affects the forest – both directly, through the unsustainable use of resources by the communities on the periphery, and indirectly, through changes in land use outside the Sundarbans mangrove forest and through the negative impact of climate change. Bangladesh's coastal population depends on the Sundarbans, as the people earn a living from fishing and the use of other resources. Because the mangrove forest also 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 under 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 be guaranteed only if all stakeholders collaborate, including the people living on the fringes of the forest.
Government bodies at both national and local level as well as co-management structures have improved the management of the Sundarbans mangrove forest.
The Management of the Sundarbans Mangrove Forests for Biodiversity Conservation and Increased Adaptation to Climate Change Project (SMP) pursues a multi-level approach in three fields of activity. The activities focusing on protected area management and co-management at the local level are supported by GOPA Consultants. Cooperation and coordination between the various stakeholders – including other government agencies, donors, and implementing organisations – is strengthened and institutionalised by creating institutional mechanisms and building up the Forest Department’s capacities. Sundarbans resource users are being empowered to better voice their concerns within the existing co-management structures and to participate in the decision-making process. Organisational development and policy advice firmly anchor these processes for the long term. To improve the management of the Sundarbans mangrove forests, SMP is evolving nature conservation instruments and mechanisms, for example by increasing the capacity of forest guards to address technical issues. The project also supports the Forest Department in integrating co-management into its existing structures. One key focus is the issue of gender. SMP also strengthens women’s rights to access natural resources and the associated benefits.
SMP has conducted a participatory governance study for co-management in the Sundarbans involving more than 150 non-governmental and government representatives. The study identified strengths and challenges relating to good governance, which have been fed into the design of project measures. In addition, the project conducted a comprehensive survey of 16,823 households located at the edge of the Sundarbans. The findings are being used to design measures for organisational development and building capacity. These measures are intended to strengthen the participation of resource users and women in co-management.
In collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the project is supporting the Bangladesh Forest Department in planning and implementing its anti-poaching and bio-monitoring measures 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. To create a standardised and practical framework for SMART in the Sundarbans, standard operating instructions and a manual have been developed and adopted by the Forest Department. So far, the project has provided training as trainers for 41 frontline staff of the Department. They in turn have trained a further 174 forest guards. The first SMART forest patrols have taken place across the Sundarbans. Data collected by them is helping the Forest Department to make better management decisions.