The Tanguar haor (wetland ecosystem) in Sunamganj continues to experience a catastrophic biodiversity collapse that not only threatens to wipe out numerous species and priceless genetic diversity but also endangers food supply, health, security, and tourism.
Uncontrolled and unregulated tourism is attributed to the deteriorating condition of the ecologically critical waterbody.
When the government stepped in to protect the aquatic life as well as the tourist spot by deploying a security force, Ansar, the move was commendable. However, a few days afterwards, it ended up in smoke, according to environmentalists.
Locals said the lawmen were bribed, by some unscrupulous people, into giving permission for illegal fishing, tree logging and migratory bird hunting.
The environment and biodiversity of Tanguar haor is under threat, warned Kashmir Reza, president of Environment and Haor Development Organisation.
He said located in Dharmapasha and Tahirpur upazilas, the vicinity is the most attractive destination for thousands of tourists who flock there each year to enjoy the extensive beauty presented by the greenery there and to spend night on the water of the wetland.
Kashmir Reza portrayed a typical scene of the haor. He said in the rainy season the haor becomes full to the brim with water and plants wear a green and fresh look while in winter the vicinity turns into a home to about 200 types of migratory birds.
Citing a recent report of the Birds Club, Reza said, "The number of birds in haor has decreased by 80% in the last few years. In 2015, about two lakh migratory birds arrived here while the number came down to 50,000 in 2018. However, more than half a million migratory birds were counted in in 2002."
Additionally, fish production has also plummeted while the lives of aquatic entities are under serious threat in the wake of deliberate pollution, added the environmental activist.
Sources said tourists throw non-biodegradable waste, including single-use plastic bottles and polythene, into the water. In addition, deafening rows of loudspeakers and engine-driven vehicles perturb living organisms in the waterbody.
The Tanguar haor is about 100 square kilometres. It is a unique wetland, of national importance, that provides subsistence to over 40,000 people, living in 46 villages situated in its periphery, and an important source of freshwater fish that also functions as a 'mother fishery' for the country.
Understanding its critical condition for overexploitation of natural resources, the government declared the haor an Ecologically Critical Area in 1999. Later, in 2000, the hoar basin was declared a Ramsar site – a wetland site of international importance. It is the second Ramsar site in the country after the Sundarbans.
Environmentalists called upon the government to ban engine-driven vehicles and tourists from throwing waste into the water.
Meanwhile, activists of Bangladesh Awami Secha Sebok League have distributed dustbins among the haor's boatmen, to rein in waste dumping and keep the environment clean.
The party's General Secretary Afzalur Rahman Babu said: "This haor is an asset of our country. So, it has to be kept safe...we are conducting an awareness campaign and giving trash bins to the sailors."