Initially, the ban is on the Sundarbans alone, and gradually the people in the adjacent areas and other coastal districts will be made aware about the bad effects on plastic use,

by Special Correspondent,

 Dhaka – Bangladesh has imposed a ban on carrying single-use plastics by the tourists visiting the Sundarbans to save the environment and biodiversity in the world’s largest mangrove forest, officials said.

Officials at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change ministry at a meeting headed by the minister, Shahab Uddin, on Wednesday were asked to implement the ban diligently.

Earlier last week, the minister announced that none of the tourists visiting the Sundarbans will be allowed to carry single-use plastic items.

“Due to the use of single-use plastic, the environment and biodiversity [in the Sundarbans] are being severely damaged,” he told a discussion in Dhaka.  

The Sundarbans, a complex network of islands and mudflats, is home to a variety of plants and animals and a sanctuary for some of the world’s most endangered species – including Bengal tigers. Bangladesh and India share the 10,000 square kilometers of mangrove forest, with 6,500 square kilometers in Bangladesh side.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO world heritage site announced in 1996.

Tourists will not be allowed single-use plastics like shopping bags, water-bottles, packs, wrappers and mini-pack shampoos while visiting the forest as per the new directives, Dipankar Bar, information officer at the ministry, told by phone.

Initially, campaign materials will be put on display on the way to Sundarbans to warn tourists not to take environmentally hazardous materials along with them in the forest, he said.

The tour operators will also be asked to abide by the ministry directives, said the official adding that shipping and tourism ministries will be alerted to act towards stopping of plastic use in the mangrove forest.

Forestry department officials say some 100,000 people visits Sundarbans annually as wonderful flora and fauna, divergent wildlife, green canopy, meandering streams and rivers made it one of the major eco-tourism attractions in Bangladesh.

Ziaul Huq, an official at the Department of Environment, said awareness campaign have already launched in the coastal districts in line with a High Court order that prohibited single-use plastics in 12 coastal districts and in hotels and motels nationwide.

Bangladesh, one of the densely populated country with higher per capita plastic use, adopted National Action Plan for Sustainable Plastic Management with a target of recycling 50 percent of plastics by 2025.

It also aimed phasing out targeted single-use plastic by 90 percent by 2026, and reducing plastic waste generation by 30 percent by 2030 from 2020-21 baseline, according to Huq.

Initially, the ban is on the Sundarbans alone, and gradually the people in the adjacent areas and other coastal districts will be made aware about the bad effects on plastic use, he said.

“It will be a coordinated effort as per the national action plan,” added Huq.     

“We have started working as per the directives to prevent tourists from using of plastic material in the forest,” said Mihir Kumar Doe, conservator of Sundarbans forest.

But, he says, stopping plastic waste in the Sundarbans requires a holistic approach to stop them in the adjoining localities inhibited by a size of more than 3.5 million people whose life and livelihoods depend on the forest resources.   

The waves and river currents carry the plastics wastes into the mangrove forest after they are used by the people in the adjoining localities and in the riverine vessels that transport passengers and cargo in the rivers outside of the forest, he said.

Thus the forests ecosystem is being polluted.

“We will be able to stop tourist from carrying single-use plastic along with them. But it is difficult to arrest their use in the locality,” he said.

The government has been in discussion as to how the directive would be implemented, and a list of single-use plastic will be announced in due course of time, said the forest conservator.

Generally, he says, polyethylene bags, water bottles, plastic used for food packaging, plastic cutleries, mini-pack shampoo, packaging for soap are among the major single-use plastic.

Mass awareness and stringent enforcement of law can make sure that the single-use plastic is stopped, said Abu Sadat Moniruzzaman Khan, head of non-governmental BRAC’s climate change programme.

He cited example that the BRAC, one of the largest NGOs worldwide, adopted a policy of not using plastic materials and in most cases made it a success.

Sundarbans’ unique ecosystem is under threat from pollution triggered by population pressures and climate change, and the communities living on the edge of the forest are struggling to survive, according to a World Bank document.

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