The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called for the effective implementation of the constitutional and legal obligations – namely the environmental laws – to protect the Sundarbans and life, nature, biodiversity and the environment on the whole.
Bangladesh will survive if the Sundarbans, a treasure trove of biodiversity, is protected, it said.
World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5, to remind people to not take nature for granted, and to read the signs, understand them, and act accordingly.
The theme of the day this year is "Celebrate Biodiversity".
The TIB made the call in a press release issued on Thursday to draw the attention of the government and stakeholders concerned ahead of the day.
As Bangladesh ranked 179th, the second from the last, among the 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index 2018, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, "Environmental pollution and biodiversity losses are increasing at a breakneck speed in Bangladesh due to the lack of proper implementation of the existing legal framework for environmental protection."
"Biodiversity in Bangladesh is at high risk due to a lack of good governance in environmental protection and management, existing institutional weaknesses, abuse of power and decisions influenced by authoritative domestic and foreign businessmen and investors, poor supervision, corruption and irregularities in the institutions concerned and political patronage.
"Encroachment of forests and water bodies has increased. Natural resources are under increasing stress. Soil, water and air are being polluted uncontrollably."
"Ignoring national and international suggestions and protests, world heritage site Sundarbans, one of the keys to biodiversity conservation, has been permanently endangered by the setting up of industrial establishments, including coal-fired power plants with public and private initiatives."
The Sundarbans is known for mangrove forests and rare wildlife, including the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger.
"The forest protected the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people, living in the coastal districts, from the onslaught of violent cyclones like Roanu, Fani and lastly super cyclone Amphan," said the TIB executive director.
"Article 18A of the Constitution contains specific guidelines for the conservation and protection of natural resources, biodiversity, wetlands, forests and wildlife.
"Putting environmentally endangered areas at risk, namely the Sundarbans, poses a major threat to Bangladesh's rich biodiversity and ecological balance.
"We must ensure the proper application of environmental laws to conserve biodiversity and the world heritage site Sundarbans – that protects lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Bangladesh.
"For that, we have to close down all the industries and factories, set up and under construction, near the Sundarbans and other environmentally critical areas."
Citing the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, TIB said, "Some 416,256 acres of forest land have been destroyed in the country since 1989. Of which 158,031 hectares have been allotted to different government and non-government organisations while 2,68,256 acres of forest land have been forcibly occupied."
"Due to increasing and uncontrolled deforestation, 39 species of wildlife have already become extinct in Bangladesh.
"And about 30 more species, including the Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans, face a major existential threat. This is a grave threat to the forest-centred life cycle and ecosystem."