On the 24th of October, Bangladesh celebrated the International Freshwater Dolphin Day 2018 for the first time. The event was mutually organized by Bangladesh Forest Department, IUCN Bangladesh,CNRS and UNDP Bangladesh under the project, "Expanding the Protected Area System to Incorporate Important Aquatic Ecosystems" (EPASIIAE) funded by GEF.
The three-day long event starting from 24-26 October 2018, was joyously held at the Liberation War Museum. The Liberation War Museum have supported the event with logistics and organizing free tours to thousand students and teachers who participated in the event. This in turn gave an opportunity to introduce the children to the roots of Bangladesh and enhance their knowledge on our cultures and practices alongside understanding to conserve our natural resources.
The event commenced with the Inaugural Session where the Honorable Minister, Mr. Anisul Islam Mahmud, Deputy Minister, Mr. Abdullah Al Islam Jakob and Secretary, Mr. Abdullah al Mohsin Chowdhury of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change were present along with the Country Director of UNDP Bangladesh, Mr. Sudipto Mukerjee, Country Representative of IUCN Bangladesh, Mr. Raquibul Amin and Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Shafiul Alam Chowdhury.
In the Inaugural Session, the Country Representative of IUCN Bangladesh, Mr. Raquibul Amin in his welcome speech proposed that the endangered Ganges River Dolphin be declared as the National Aquatic Animal of Bangladesh because of its existence and home in the rivers. He also said, "Bangladesh does not have an official national aquatic animal. If the dolphin is declared its national aquatic animal, that would play a major role in the conservation of this endangered dolphin other dolphin species.”
Later, Mr. Sudipto Mukherjee, Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh further reiterated this call by saying, “Bengal Tiger is the flagship animal of Bangladesh on the land. Let’s choose the dolphin as the flagship animal of the life under water. Conserving the life under water is the Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 14.”
Then, Honorable Minister, Mr. Anisul Islam Mahmud, Chief Guest of the inaugural session promised to place the proposal to declare dolphin as a flagship aquatic animal of Bangladesh before the cabinet. He also mentioned that, conserving the endangered dolphin species will ensure good environment and healthy rivers with better overall ecological balance. Furthermore, he stated that in order to protect these species, more Ecologically Critical Areas and Protected Areas will be declared if necessary.
Mr. Abdullah Al Islam Jakob, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as well as Secretary Mr. Abdullah al Mohsin Chowdhury spoke about their concern on threats faced by these endangered dolphins in their respective speeches. The Deputy Minister stated that more efforts must be put in to conserve these iconic creatures, while the Secretary referred to the fact that dolphins are key to maintain ecological balance in an ecosystem. The inaugural session was Chaired by Mr. Mohammed Shafiul Alam Chowdhury, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department, who thanked everyone and mentioned that the Forest Department is giving its full effort to conserve not only dolphins but all biodiversity.
The celebration continued with vibrant painting session and an opportunity for the children present to interact an expert, listen to the stories of the Mawalis and Bawalis, the people who make a living in the heart of the Sundarbans. Over the three days, more than a thousand children has participated in the event. In the second and third day, puppet show and origami sessions were held, where need for conservation of these magnificent animals were ingrained into the young minds. The venue, with photo exhibition, arts, bioscope, Gazir Gaan created an engaging setting, where people of all walks of life visited and enjoyed the festivities.
Each session was enlivened with active participation by the general public, students, journalists and showed immense eagerness to stand for the conservation of freshwater dolphins residing in Bangladesh.