The tale of a fearless environmental warrior: Citizen activism for biodiversity conservation in the Sundarbans

June 23, 2022

Solutions mapping meeting with “Pashur River Waterkeeper” Mr. Noor Alam Sheikh

“The first time I went on a Rash Mela[1] (a religious festival) boat trip in the Sundarbans, I saw the cruelty of indiscriminate slaughter of deer in the deep forest. It broke my heart when I saw some of the killed deer were pregnant. I published a feature on this on the local newspaper Dainik Purbachal, which drew a lot of attention, resulting in the Forest Department imposing restrictions on the Rash Mela trip inside of the Sundarbans[2] area.”

Md. Noor Alam Sheikh, locally known as “Pashur river Waterkeeper”[3] and convenor of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) of Bagerhat district, Khulna, reminisced about how one newspaper feature turned his passion for environmental activism into a career. Since then, he has been involved with major environmental activism with BAPA to protect the biodiversity of the Sundarbans – a transboundary mangrove forest and a UNESCO world heritage site.

 

[1] The “Rash Mela” a popular Hindu festival in honor of lord Krishna and Shri Randhika is observed in the Bangla month of Kartik (October/November). In Sundarbans it takes place at Dubla Island located on the southern coast of Sundarbans and at the mouth of the Ganges delta, where the holy Ganges unites with the sea. Rash Mela Trip to the Sundarbans - (pugmarkbd.com)

[2] Sundarbans is the biggest natural mangrove forest in the world, located between Bangladesh and India. 60% of the most beautiful parts of Sundarbans is in Bangladesh. It is the deepest with the different types of geological periods and fauna.

[3] Waterkeepers Bangladesh safeguards water bodies and ecosystems entailing water sources on which all life depends.

During a recently conducted solutions safari visit, the Bangladesh accelerator lab got to know about grassroots community activist Mr. Sheikh, who has been working relentlessly to save the biodiversity from human encroachment and the Pashur river of the Sunderbans from pollution, despite being ostracized by his family and losing jobs for his environmental activism, which has earned him the local title “Pashur river waterkeeper”.

  Md. Noor Alam Sheikh, "Pashur river waterkeeper and convenor of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA

 

Biodiversity in Sundarbans:

Sundarbans, the biggest mangrove forest in the country

Bangladesh is one of the biodiversity-rich countries in the world having five broad types of ecosystems - coastal and marine ecosystems, inland freshwater ecosystems, terrestrial forest ecosystems, hilly ecosystems, and man-made homestead ecosystems. The Sundarbans is recognized as the most diverse ecosystem in Bangladesh but experiencing the highest rate of ecosystem loss. One after another cyclones have left the forest deeply ravaged while salinity is inflicting great damage on the forest environment. Having been declared a world heritage site, Sundarbans remains under multiple threats as the forest area is shrinking day by day due to increase in human settlement and commercial establishment, onslaught of cyclone, increase in salinity and plundering of its resources.