Tigers have been traced on a four-kilometre sand bar (char) which has recently arisen between Hiron point and Dublar Char of the Sundarbans area. The forestry department, the district administration and the coastguard have been squabbling over the use of this newly emerged stretch of land.
A forestry team comprising forestry department officials and wildlife experts visited the newly named Bangabandhu char area and sighted tiger paw marks there. The local fishermen also confirmed of the tigers’ presence. The team discovered endangered species of the spoonbill bird and Eurasian oystercatcher there too.
The Khulna district administration wants to build a tourist spot on the site while the coastguard sought permission to build a watch tower along with a building on the char. The forestry department aims to keep the area undisturbed as a wildlife habitat and mangrove plantation. “The forestry department owns the char on natural and administrative grounds,” said Amir Hossain Chowdhury, a forestry department official in Khulna region.
The wildlife team observed Irrawaddy dolphins swimming across the river beside the char. The nearest forest is about 5 kilometres away. About half of the char is made up of clay, while the rest is mangrove forest.
Monirul H Khan, zoologist of Jahangirnagar University and head of the team, told Prothom Alo, “Several sea birds have started residing in this muddy area while deer and boars also roam around making it a habitat for tigers.” He added, “The government should not erect any structure here and should preserve it for research purposes only.”
Earlier, the coastguard in 2015 sought permission from the Khulna district administration for a watch tower on security grounds for the vessels carrying coal to the Rampal power plant as well as other water transport of the sea route. Referring to this stretch of land as Sorwar char, they sought land allocation from both the land ministry and home ministry and said in their letter to the home ministry, “Due to the developing crime scenario in the sea coast areas, it has become essential to set up an LRIT (long range identification and tracking) system.”
However, the Khulna forestry department official Amirul said, “The department wants to protect the land as a safe habitat for wildlife, including tigers”.
*The report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.