Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rallying for Second Trip

All systems are go for a return to Bangladesh on March 12. A country clearance came only over the weekend. This is unusually late to get clearance, but there had been a rebellion in Bangladesh that caused a higher security alert throughout the country. The border guards murdered hundreds of their military superiors and then sought to escape. This was headline news on BBC and even appeared in my hometown newspaper. Fortunately, the new prime minister got control of the situation quickly and many of the perpetrators have been arrested. My colleagues in Dhaka were restricted to the diplomatic part of the city for almost week.

We were fairly certain that my clearance would come through, and the situation is now calm. I am preparing materials for our upcoming field trips and for a workshop.

The agenda is packed. A 2 day workshop is first up for all of the project's enterprise coordinators and for representatives of the Forest Service, Department of Environment and Fisheries.

Next our team heads to the Teknaf Peninsula where the draft strategy for community-based nature tourism will be presented. I have spent the last 4 weeks processing this, writing, reviewing maps, and agonizing over the approach. A field trip to the lower peninsula will allow us to map a promising cross-peninsula trail that will start from the Teknaf Game Reserve's main entrance to the wild, lower beaches on the west coast. A wonderful boating company, Contic, will be evaluating traditional boat journey options as part of our program.

The next week we head to the famed Sundarbans National Park. With a team of students from Bengali universities, we will be performing a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats Assessment of sustainable tourism in the park. The Sunderbans shelters the largest population of Bengal Tigers in the world and it is the world's largest wetland. A World Heritage Reserve it has attracted tourism in both India and Bangaldesh for decades. A variety of boat journeys are available to travel through this enormous mangrove. The reserve is also home for many farmers and settlers who plant their crops in this dangerous area. More local people are killed and eaten by tigers here than anywhere else in the world. Amazing stories of their bravery and efforts to repel the tigers abound. I am sure I will hear more. But I will be traveling on a boat, and it is very doubtful my team will see a tiger.

After these field trips. a return to Dhaka will be on the agenda with some meetings before return home by April 6.


  1. welcome back to blogger world! just reading a climate change/rising sea story on Yahoo! and it notes that among the worst hit countries will be Bangladesh, which would lose some 17 percent of its landmass, displacing nearly 15 million people. you've got your work cut out for you. safe journey. marge

  2. This will be interesting! Good luck and safe travels

  3. your comment 'The reserve is also home for many farmers and settlers who plant their crops in this dangerous area' is misleading. there are no permanent human settlements within the reserve forest, except the forest stations and range offices. the fringe area or buffer zone is densily populated and shrimp farms vast areas of land around the forest. for harvesting forest products, the villagers enter the Sundarbans by boat often for several days at a time.


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