Unfriendly host, uninterested guests

Unb, Sunamganj

Tanguar Haor, a prominent Bangladeshi wetland rich in biodiversity, has long been known for attracting thousands of migratory birds during winter in the country’s northeastern region.

But the haor sees a decline in the number of migratory birds visiting the area this winter, thanks to unabated bird hunting and ecological imbalances.

Locals and experts attributed such decline in seasonal “guest birds” to illegal hunting, loss of forage and biodiversity, and climatic changes, among others.

Each year, around 219 species of winged visitors used to flock to the haor flying thousands of miles from various parts of the world including Siberia, China, Himalaya and many other countries, bringing along a rich natural diversity and beauty to the wetland. These also used to attract a good number of tourists.

But this year, to the utmost disappointment of tourists and bird lovers, the number of visiting birds dwindled sharply.

Locals alleged that the main reason behind the decline is after-dark bird hunting dodging the guards, and a lack of forage that birds feed on.

Located in the Dharmapasha and Tahirpur upazilas of northeastern Sunamganj district, Tanguar Haor is a unique wetland ecosystem of national importance and has come into international focus.

The area of Tanguar haor, which includes 46 villages, spans over an area of 100 sq km. Bangladesh declared Tanguar haor as an Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) in 1999 considering its critical condition as a result of overexploitation of its natural resources.

A small flock of migratory birds perched on trees in Tanguar Haor. Photo: Sheikh Nasir

In 2000, the hoar basin was declared a Ramsar Site — a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. According to www.ramsar.org, the Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Bangladesh is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention.

With this declaration, the government must be committed to preserve its natural resources and has to take steps for protection of this wetland.

Shuvon Rangsa, an executive magistrate in Tanguar Haor area, told the news agency that migratory birds are not visiting the haor this winter because of the high water level of the wetland and as the forages that birds feed on remained submerged under water.

Awareness is being built among the people to stop bird hunting, said Shuvon. He hoped that once the people are aware, they themselves will protect the guest birds.

On the other hand, Mehedi Hassan, assistant project officer of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told the news agency that birds do not visit the place if the temperature is not favourable for them.

High water level is also a reason behind the decline in visiting birds this season, he added.

Locals, tourists, bird lovers expected the government to undertake measures to solve the food scarcity problem of the migratory birds.

In addition, the government should put an end to illegal hunting of the birds in order to protect the environment of the haor and make it lively with the chirping of winged guests again, they demanded.