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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Saving the Sundarbans
Map of Sunderbans
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By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

The United Nations is hosting a one-day conference on protecting one of the world's largest mangrove forests, the Sundarbans, which spans India and Bangladesh.

The conference in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, will discuss ways in which the two countries can cooperate to preserve the Sundarbans, which is home to a wide range of wildlife, including Royal Bengal tigers, crocodiles and dolphins.

The Bangladeshi Government has warned that the environmental threat to the forest is becoming increasingly grave.

The idea behind this conference is that India and Bangladesh can, for the first time, work together to conserve the Sundarbans, which is one of the last great coastal wetlands in the world.

Famous residents

The region today includes two heritage sites, one in Bangladesh and one in India.

Royal Bengal tiger
Royal Bengal tigers are dying off

It is hoped that Dhaka and Delhi will soon agree to share information on the area and establish bilateral conservation initiatives.

The Bangladeshi Environment Secretary, Sabihuddin Ahmed, says that failure to work together will have disastrous consequences for one of the most famous Sundarbans residents.

"The Royal Bengal tiger is not only a symbol, " he said.

"It is very close to our hearts and the tragedy is that this magnificent specimen has been slowly dying off," Mr Ahmed said.

Common concern

Mr Ahmed said both Bangladesh and India agreed that the Sundarbans was an environmental Taj Mahal.

They accept that the forest is threatened by pollution and human encroachment.

Mr Ahmed said that later this month India and Bangladesh are due to sign an agreement which identifies areas of common concern.

He said that the two countries had carried out extensive research on either side of the border but had so far never shared their findings.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
India and Bangladesh talk trade
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Tigers kill 22 in Bangladesh
17 Dec 01 | South Asia
New hope for Bengal tigers
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