Bees play a vital role in pollination.File Photo

The insect is only half-an-inch long. Although tiny in size, it is highly important. This insect is mainly known as the primary producer of honey and wax. But the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says these play a key role in pollinating 70 per cent of the plants in the world, including in Bangladesh. This the the bee.

Along with bees, a lot of other tiny insects and creatures play an enormous part in the production of human food. Yet in order to increase food production in the country, pesticides are being used and these kill the insects, starting from microscopic bacteria that protects soil health to bees and other insects . It is feared that if these tiny animals decrease, this will result in the world’s food production going down by 35 per cent.

A global report on world biodiversity and agriculture published by FAO in 2022 has deemed the role of these tiny insects in Bangladesh, as vital. In fact, insects, small birds, small fish and microscopic bacteria play a vital role in sustaining the country’s food production and natural environment.

However, the use of insecticides in eliminating harmful insects is escalating in order to increase food production. In this manner 90 per cent of the insects are dying. Birds meet 70 per cent of their food requirements with insects. So, the dropping number of insects is causing the number of birds to decrease due to food crisis.

An association of the international organisations working on nature conservation, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s director in Bangladesh Raquibul Amin told Prothom Alo, by the term conservation of biodiversity, everyone in the country understands only the protection of forest land. Yet, there are a lot of animals living in our wetlands, the sea, human settlements and even in our cities. Besides taking necessary steps for their protection, proper habitat has to be ensured for them as well, he added.

The slogan for this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity is ‘Building a shared future for all life’. The day is observed all over the world including Bangladesh. However, no government programmes have been organised to observe the day.

Beacon of hope in bees

Md Sakhawat Hossain, a professor at the entomology department of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University has been doing research on bees for over two decades now. His recent studies show that the number of bees in the country is going up for the last two to three years.

According to him, the cultivation of mustard, sunflower and citrus fruits in the country has gone up, so bees are increasing as well. Bees collect food from the flowers of these plants and that same food in turn is consumed by humans as honey.

According to Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), five to six tonnes of honey is produced in the country annually. In 1990, a species called European Bee was imported to the country. This species depends chiefly on fruit and oil based plants. In the last few years, bees of this particular species have been increasing rapidly.

Professor Sakhawat Hossain’s observes that the rise in the number of bees increases pollination of other plants and crops as well. Especially, bees increase the production of fruit and oil based plants by 20 to 100 per cent. As much as these plants increase in future, organic pollination of other crops will increase in line with that. And, this will help to raise the country’s overall food production.

Birds declining in number

FAO’s report says, the number of birds in Bangladesh has decreased by 55 per cent in between the years of 1971 to 2013. Along with the number of local birds going down, the number migratory birds visiting the country is also reducing quickly.

According to the records of Bangladesh Bird Club, a bird watching and conserving organisation, the number of birds in the country has reduced by at least 20 per cent in the last five years. It has been mentioned in the organisation’s bird census of the current year that 276 thousand birds have been sighted in the country. The number was 300 thousand in the year 2017.

As insects have decreased, birds are getting less food than before. The census also mentioned that birds are decreasing fast due to food crisis and increasing human movement in the areas inhabited by birds. It was said there that migratory birds are not coming like before owing to fast industrialisation in the coastal areas and increase of infrastructural construction.

Harm in fertiliser and pesticides

FAO’s report said beneficial bacteria are dying for the excessive use of fertilisers in agriculture. In consequence, the quality of the soil is getting ruined.

That same fertilisers and pesticides seeping through the soil into the rivers and lakes. This is polluting the natural habitat and breeding grounds of the fish. Natural fish feed like larva of insects, planktons and aquatic plants are also dying because of this.

Small fish provide nutrition

It was said in the report that small fish farming and floating vegetable gardens set in the ponds of Bangladesh are playing vital roles in preserving the diversity of animals and plants. Small fish like mola, dhela, puti and tengra are meeting the nutritional requirements particularly of women and the poore. FAO’s report also supports this claim.

During the monsoon, small fish meet our demand of animal protein by 50 to 80 per cent. People find these fish in ponds as well as in open water bodies, haors, beels and rivers.

Yahia Mahmud, director general of Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute informed Prothom Alo, “We have conserved more than 100 species of local fish here. We are continuously discovering advanced farming methods for small fish of our local origin. Farmers are fulfilling the nutritional demand of the country by producing these fish.”

Mola fish is rich in bio-calcium, Vitamin-A, iron and zinc. On average, ten kilograms of mola fish is produced annually in four million (40 lakh) ponds of the country. This plays a vital role in meeting the nutritional demand of six million children aged less than five years.

Besides, about 50 to 80 per cent of the produced fish are small and medium in size. The nutritional value of these fish is more than bigger fish.

New fish verities

However, there is good news regarding fish in the country as well. Researchers of the Chittagong University have discovered 18 new fish species through surveys in between the years of 2018 to 2020. In the meantime, researchers of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University have found 21 species.

The condition of the smaller creatures is comparatively better. Kuchiya and mola fish, which are on the way of extinction across the world, are increasing in Bangladesh. These animals are rising in number mainly because of the farming done at the local level.

15 extinct wild animals

According to IUCN Bangladesh’s data, 15 wild animals have become extinct in the country in the last 100 years. The list includes the striped hyena,grey wolf, sloth, barasingha deer, black buck, wild water buffalo, Sumatran rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros, Indian rhinoceros, Indian peafowl, lesser florican, etc.

Within five years of the pink headed duck going extinct from Bangladesh in 1930, it vanished entirely from the world.

25 new plant species

Bangladesh National Herbarium, a government organisation working on conservation of plants, has discovered 25 new species of plants in the last five years. However, no steps have been taken to preserve these plants and their seeds anywhere. Even no such steps were taken to protect the surroundings of the areas, where these plants have grown.

In this regard biodiversity expert, Reza Khan said no animal or plants in the country can be saved in an isolated manner. Their overall surroundings have to be saved as well. Otherwise, the number of small animals will decrease and create a threat for the lives of bigger animals as well.