Dhaka, February 12, 2012— The first-ever World Bank supported regional project in South Asia for conserving wildlife was launched today in Dhaka. The ‘Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia’ project will be implemented in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal and help the participating governments to enhance shared capacity, institutions and knowledge. It will also address the incentives to collaborate in cross-border poaching and other regional conservation threats to habitats in border areas.
With South Asia’s rich biodiversity, the region is a lucrative target of the illegal wildlife trade. Illegal poaching of the iconic tiger and elephant, deer and reptiles, different species of birds and corals is the most severe threat against biodiversity conservation. To address this, the World Bank recently approved a $36 million financing to Bangladesh for the Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia Project.
"The project will be an important milestone in regional cooperation for wildlife conservation in South Asia.” said the Honorable Minister for Environment and Forests Dr. Hasan Mahbud, MP, chief guest in the launching workshop “Participation of tiger range countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Bhutan would prevent cross-border illegal wildlife trading to a great extent. Participation by other tiger range countries in South Asia and South East Asia is envisaged in later phases."
Bangladesh holds the largest remaining population of tigers in the Sundarbans. Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal are home to over 65% of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers. Bangladesh faces severe conservation challenges. 4-5% of faunal species and about 10% of floral diversity have become extinct in the last century in the Country.
‘Adoption of the Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan and revision of the Wildlife (Conservation) Act has demonstrated the strong commitment of the Government towards wildlife conservation.’ said Sanjay Kathuria, Acting Country Director, World Bank Bangladesh. “Now cross-border cooperation will help reduce illegal wildlife trade and conserve natural habitats that spread across different countries.”
No single country can manage or eliminate the threat of wildlife poaching on its own. Neither can a single country manage contiguous cross-border wildlife habitat effectively, since wild animals cannot be confined to national boundaries. Conservation of these habitats would also contribute to sustainable livelihoods for people dependent on forests for their livelihood.
The project is expected to bring about regional collaboration in combating wildlife crime through strengthened legislative and regulatory frameworks. It will also fill crucial knowledge gaps in addressing the regional threats to conservation. The Bangladesh Forest Department would implement the project in Bangladesh. The project will also establish a Wildlife Center to undertake training, research, education and awareness on issues relating to wildlife conservation and protection.