DHAKA, June 2, 2011 – The Government of Bangladesh today signed a US$ 36 million credit agreement with the World Bank for the “Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia” project. The regional project will address cross-border illegal wildlife trade through regional cooperation and capacity building, and support the country’s initiative for habitat protection and management for wildlife in general and tigers in particular.
South Asia is home to 13-15 percent of the world's biodiversity and hosts some of the most endangered species on Earth. However, pressures such as deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and poaching of wild animals have put the environmental and ecological balance under severe threat.
“This project will be the entry point to regional cooperation for wildlife protection and conservation,” said Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Economic Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister. “Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan are joining the project at this stage. Participation by other tiger range countries in South Asia and South East Asia is envisaged in later phases.”
The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests has also shown willingness to join the regional initiative and had participated in a regional consultation meeting.
“It is clear that no single country, acting alone, can eliminate the perils to South Asia's wildlife resources,” said Ellen Goldstein, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh. “Adopting and implementing a regional approach will be the most appropriate solution to ensure the effectiveness of interventions addressing illegal wildlife trade, habitat management and conservation of species.”
Bangladesh holds the largest remaining population of tigers in the Sundarbans region. However, the country’s ecological balance is being affected by immense population pressures, over-exploitation of natural resources, deforestation and indiscriminate poaching of wild animals. Studies indicate that 4-5 percent of faunal species and about 10 percent of floral diversity have already become extinct over the last century.
The project will assist the governments of participating countries to build and enhance shared capacity to collaborate in improving the effectiveness of wildlife and habitat conservation, while promoting ecotourism.
“The charismatic appeal of many species can generate additional economic benefits from conservation,” said M. Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “Tourism revenues from habitats rich in biodiversity can be significant for Bangladesh, contributing to the livelihoods of the poorest.”
Mr. M. Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Secretary, Economic Relations Division and Ms. Ellen Goldstein, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank respectively, at the Economic Relations Division. Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Economic Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister graced the occasion, along with Mr. Mesbah-Ul-Alam, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest and Mr. Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department.
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.