Sunday, April 10, 2011

NASA to study vulnerability of largest mangrove forest in Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

IN THE wake of climate change, acclaimed space science agency the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) has decided to fund a study on the changes of the mangrove forests and its overall effect on the entire ecosystem.

NASA awarded $637,000 to a Bangladesh-born scientist Faiz Rahman, a professor of Indiana University in Bloomington to conduct a study on the vulnerability of the Sundarbans, recurrently lashed by cyclones and tidal surges.
Rahman, presently living in Indiana State discussed his plan while talking to private wire service banglanews.com and said the project is scheduled to begin from August 2011.

The Bangladeshi scientist has been designated as principal investigator of the project. Three other investigators are – Dr. Rinku Roy Chowdhury, an assistant professor of geography Department of Indiana University, and Dr. Boone Kauffman and Dr. Daniel Donato of the US Forest Service.

Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which is shared by two countries – Bangladesh and partially India is the home of 2,000 magnificent Bengal Tigers.

Recently Bangladesh has decided to use radio collars to track and monitor the ferocious Bengal Tigers, said Dr Mohammad Anwarul Islam, chief executive of Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh.
The investigating team of Rahman will study the largest mangrove forests over the next three years to identify the reasons behind the ongoing changes occurring in the forests, its capacity for carbon absorption and other factors contributing to bringing the change in the forests—its flora and fauna.

The program was undertaken as part of the U.S. government’s Carbon Cycle Science Program, a partnership of several governmental agencies, including the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, the Dept. of Energy, the Dept. of Agriculture and U.S Natural Science Foundation and NASA and others.

Explaining the importance of the Sundarbans to Bangladesh, Rahman said, “Some 6000 people died in cyclone ‘Aila’ in 2007. Another cyclone named ‘Nargis’ hit Myanmar the following year, leaving more than 100,000 people dead, and the damages from the cyclone were immense.”
“The Sundarbans is the single-largest block of mangrove forests in the world, covering nearly 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 sq miles) of the Bay of Bengal delta. The mangrove trees play a significant role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, but the extent of the carbon sink,” said Rahman.

Regarding the planned study, Rahman categorically said that the research would not only focus on collecting information about forest density and carbon stocks but also investigate the damage done by human beings in the forests and, consequently, socioeconomic impacts on the life of Bangladeshi people.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh plans to launch its own communications satellite within a year, Post and Telecommunications Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju disclosed to journalists on Sunday. The cost of the program will be between $150 million and $200 million.

The satellite would serve commercial purposes including improving telecom services, helping to meet the booming demand for it. In addition television broadcasting and meteorological data including disaster warnings would be available from the satellite. The satellite would also help mapping natural resources, and to predict weather to help farmers, an expert said.

Bangladesh’s neighbors India and Pakistan launched their own satellites in 1980 and 1990 respectively. [ENDS]

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com