UN representatives on Wednesday visited the Sundarbans to observe how nearby industrial activities, including three under-construction coal-fired power plants – Rampal, Barguna's Taltali and Patuakhali's Kalapara, might impact on the world's largest mangrove forest.
A four-member delegation of a UN joint mission is on a three-day visit to the Sundarbans. The visit began on Wednesday from the Fuel Jetty near Mongla and will end on Friday, said Forest Department (Sundarbans east zone) officials.
The UN team's visit to the Sundarbans is a part of the promises the government made to the Unesco in its Baku conference in June 30-July 10 this year.
The delegation comprises members from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They have come to Bangladesh to collect information on the current situation of the Sundarbans' biodiversity.
They will also assess the environmental risks posed to the Sundarbans by nearby factories, thermal power plants under construction at Rampal, Taltali and Kalapara, and dredging in the Pashur and other adjacent rivers.
Members of the delegation include Guy Brook from Unesco New Delhi office, Akane Nakamura from Unesco World Heritage Centre, and Elena Osipova and Andro White from the IUCN.
Security inside the Sundarbans has been strengthened on the occasion of the UN team's visit.
The Sundarbans was on Unesco's danger list due to some environmentally threatening projects the government of Bangladesh has been undertaken since long.
However, in its Baku meeting on July 6 last, Unesco's World Heritage Committee decided to defer relegation of the Sundarbans' status to "world heritage in danger" by one year – until 44th meeting in China in 2020.
The decision was announced despite calls from across the world, asking to save the Sundarbans from coal pollution.
An initial report of the meeting in the Azerbaijani capital said the planet's largest mangrove forest has been facing several dangers, both natural and man-made.
In the Baku conference, Bangladesh government sent a 13-member team headed by prime minister's Energy Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, to inform Unesco about the government's necessary actions for the safety of the Sundarbans.
Back from the international conference, Dr Towfiq on July 11 briefed journalists at the Prime Minister's Office about the government's achievement in the Baku conference.
He said the Unesco committee agreed not to keep the Sundarbans on its danger list any longer as Bangladesh government had made three promises.
The promises were: conducting a holistic survey in southern zone centring the Sundarbans, taking up no more development work near it and inviting a Unesco team to observe the world heritage site.