The Pashua- Tanguar Haors of Bangladesh are home to many threatened birds, some globally threatened and thousands of migratory and residential birds. However the number of migratory birds is drastically declining from the Haor basin of Bangladesh every year revealed Enam Ul Haque, President of Bangladesh Bird Club at a recent round table discussion on Avian Biodiversity Conservation of Pashua-Tanguar Haor.
Wetlands are a vital resource to Bangladesh providing ecological, socio-cultural, economic and commercial value. Tanguar Haor, a globally significant wetland in north-eastern Bangladesh is home to approximately 56,000 people in 88 villages. The people of the Haor are highly dependent on fish and agriculture, with 93% of income generated from these activities.
The biodiversity of these ecosystems and abundance of bird life is however under great pressure from increasing populations which are ultimately leading to biodiversity loss due to overharvesting, pollution, land tenure systems and tourism. For small gains, the people of the Haors are unknowingly damaging resources that could bring long-term benefits.
IUCN Country Representative, Mr. Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad and Enam Ul Haque, President of Bangladesh Bird Club stressed the need to urgently invest resources and educate the community and urged the Government to step forward to urgently preserve and conserve the Haor. Similarly Dr. Paul M Thompson of the Flood Hazard Research Centre encouraged conservation and government agencies to work with NGO’s to assist in the plight to protect the rights of small birds.
Focus on less protected species, notably neglected swamp habitats and loss of canopy trees which are being logged by local people for wood and grazing areas require urgent attention revealed Professor Philip D Round of the Wetland Trust of UK otherwise rare bird species will be forever lost. He stressed the importance of developing local capacity which would assist in reserving trends of habitat loss and generate distinguished benefits for local people such as additional spawning grounds for fish.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though, 11 endangered and nearly threatened were allocated in recent bird surveys undertaken throughout the Haor areas. One of these species, the Firethroat, a globally near-threatened species which has very few sightings outside of breeding season had nine spottings, the most in the past 150 years and Bangladesh now boasts more Firethroat than any other South Asian country.
In Tanguar Haor from 19-27 March 2012, a bird ring camp was conducted by four British ornithologists and six Bangladeshi bird researchers. A total of 35 species from 440 individual numbers of birds were ringed. Among these, the Grey-sided bush warbler was discovered as a new species to Bangladesh, captured from the Lechuamara beel kanda.
Stressing the importance of conservation activities to prevent migratory species vanishing, Prof. Phillip Round told participants ‘There is lots of hope and optimism if right methods are undertaken and current practices are turned around’ in his closing . This was further emphasized by Mr. Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad from IUCN who urged assistance with conservation activities to ensure Tanguar Hoar would remain a natural wonder.
The round table discussion took place on 29 February 2012 at the Dhaka Press Club with participants from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, various media outlets, members of the Bird Club of Bangladesh, local and foreign ornithologists as well as numerous scholars and activists involved with bird conservation in Bangladesh.