Washington, April 7, 2011—The World Bank today approved a $36 million credit to Bangladesh and a $3 million grant to Nepal for the First Phase of the Adaptable Program Loan (APL) on Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia in support of the conservation and protection of wildlife species in both countries. The project will assist the participating governments to build or enhance shared capacity, institutions, knowledge, and incentives to collaborate in tackling illegal wildlife trade and other selected regional conservation threats to habitats in border areas, while promoting ecotourism, which has become the fastest growing and most profitable segment of the tourist industry.
South Asia is home to 13-15 percent of the world's biodiversity and hosts some of the most endangered species on Earth. Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal are home to over 65 percent of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers. However, pressures such as deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and poaching of wild animals have put the environmental and ecological balance under severe threat.
“Economic growth pressures on our planet have resulted in unprecedented extinction of species: one in eight bird species, one in four mammals, and one in three amphibians are threatened. And yet, biodiversity is critical to maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and the ecological processes that support human beings,” said Isabel Guerrero, World Bank’s South Asia Vice President. “Conservation of Asia’s emblematic tiger would lead to improved natural habitat for all species and, ultimately, healthy ecosystems for South Asia.”
The project will tackle conservation threats to habitats in border areas and clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade of species such as the tiger, snow leopard, rhinoceros, and elephant in increasingly fragmented habitats.
Bangladesh holds the largest remaining population of tigers in the Sundarbans region. However, the country’s environmental and ecological balance is under severe threat and studies indicate that 4-5 percent of faunal species and about 10 percent of floral diversity have become extinct in the last century.
Nepal's biodiversity is also extremely important for the country's economy as well as the well-being of its people. Forests, which comprise 29 percent of Nepal’s land area contribute, to about 10 percent of Nepal’s economy and represent a daily source of fuel wood, food, fodder, timber, and medicinal plants for about 80 percent of the country’s population.
In addition to wildlife conservation, protecting these habitats has numerous benefits by preserving timber, fodder, medicinal products, and watersheds. It also has the potential to promote ecotourism and it has been shown that tourism revenues from habitats rich in biodiversity are significant and contribute to livelihoods of the poorest.
The credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, has 40-year maturity, including a 10-year grace period; it carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.