Protecting the Sundarbans: An Appraisal of National and International Environmental Laws
Iftekhar, M, Protecting the Sundarbans: An Appraisal of National and International Environmental Laws, Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, 13, (2) pp. 249-268. ISSN 1385-2140 (2011) [Refereed Article]
The Sundarbans, the world’s largest continuous mangrove forest, stretches over two neighbouring countries — Bangladesh and India — and spans an area of about 10 000 square kilometers. The ecosystem is a major terrestrial transboundary ecoregion with great ecological and economic importance. To protect this valuable ecosystem both countries have undertaken various administrative and legislative measures, which have stemmed from legislative developments under the British regime. The countries have also signed many international conservation agreements and treaties. Through declaring world heritage sites and Ramsar sites they have expressed their global commitment to protect the Sundarbans. However, in spite of such legislative coverage, the ecosystem is degrading rapidly for various reasons. This article reviews the national and international legal regimes that are intended to protect the ecosystem and finds that the existing national legislations suffer from some major limitations. These include lack of comprehensive wetland laws, absence of legal definitions covering ecological attributes or processes, absence of environmental impact assessment of forest resource extraction activities and conflict between trade and export policies. International agreements provide some conservation guidelines. However, how far these guidelines are implemented depends on the willingness and capacity of the two countries involved.