"Communities within Bangladesh have been working with nature for many years to adapt to climatic impacts and there is a rich body of knowledge on how to implement Nature-based Solutions."
In Bangladesh, Protected Areas (PAs) include sanctuaries, national parks, community conservation areas, safari parks, eco-parks, botanical gardens, special biodiversity conservation area, and traditional heritage and kunjaban declared under the Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) Order, 1973. This law has recently been updated as the Wildlife (Protection and Security) Act, 2012. There are currently 45 protected areas in Bangladesh.
‘Co-management’ is a forest management concept implemented in the protected forests of Bangladesh for the enhancement of their biodiversity conservation as well as community wellbeing. Here, forest-dependent people get involved in the conservation and protection efforts facilitated by the Bangladesh Forest Department. Co-management thus refers to ensuring active participation of all concerned parties in the management or maintenance of natural resources on the basis of consensus among all stakeholders involved in the management of the natural resources of an area as per the Wildlife (Protection and Security) Act, 2012. In this case study, only forest PA co-management is described.
Central/Dhaka region (Modhupur National Park), Chittagong region (Baroiyadhala National Park, Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary [21°58′ N; 92°04′ E], Dudpukuria Dhopachari Wildlife Sanctuary, Hazarikhil Wildlife Sanctuary, Nijhum Dweep National Park, and Kaptai National Park), Cox’s Bazar region (Fasiakhali Wildlife Sanctuary, Himchari National Park, Inani Reserved Forest, Medakachapia National Park, and Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary [20°53′ N; 92°17′ E]), Sylhet region (Khadimnagar National Park, Lawachara National Park [24°18′ N; 91°45′ E], Ratargul Special Biodiversity Conservation Area, Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary, and Satchari National Park), and south-west region (Sundarbans reserved forest [22°00′ N; 89°30′ E] (including 6 Wildlife Sanctuary and Ecologically Critical Area) and Tengragiri Wildlife Sanctuary).
Terrestrial forests, include mostly evergreen hill forests, three mangrove forest and intertidal forests, and one deciduous Sal (Shorea robusta) forest
The co-management organizations are formed in three tiers as per the Protected Area Management Rules, 2017(BFD and UNDP, 2018). Village Conservation Forums (VCFs) are the bottom most institutions at the PA landscape, comprised of enlisted households within 5 kilometers of the protected area, dependent on forests. Each household nominates one individual to be the General Member of the VCF and 50% VCF members are women. Each VCF has a 7-membered Executive Body with 50% women representation. The members of forum assist the Co-management Committee and Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) to design and implement management plan for the respective PA. The forum raises awareness on the forest resources usage, wildlife conservation, and climate change.
Peoples Forum (PF) is the apex body of the VCFs and forms at the Forest Range level, comprising of all VCFs from PA landscape communities. Each VCF nominates two persons (one woman) to be the General Member of the PF. PF has an 11- membered Executive body for 2 years. Ten (10) members from PF represent in the upper tier Co-Management General Committee and 6 in Co-Management Executive Committee. The forum raises awareness of natural resource management and biodiversity conservation within their respective PA, and assist in project planning and ensure participation of the marginalized group during the project planning and implementation.
Co-Management Committee (CMC) is the formal general body of the Co-Management Organization comprising of around 38 members from the community, BFD, local administration, and civil society representations. Its executive body is called Co-Management Executive Committee (CMEC) again has representation from all stakeholder groups with 19 members. The CMEC is the functional entity of Co-management in forest Protected Areas. The CMEC leads all conservation and community welfare activities jointly with BFD at Forest Range or Protected Area level. The general CMC is responsible to approve the management plan for the protected area by executive CMC and persue to Divisional Forest Officer of BFD for necessary fund arrangement. CMC also initiate Community Patrol Groups for maintenance of PA resources. Youth Clubs (YC) and Eco-Tour guides are selected from villages and represented in CMCs.
Forest PA co-management involves community people in forest protection, conserves biodiversity, enhances forest coverage or afforestation, and reduces deforestation. PA co-management improves the overall ecosystem by habitat creation for wildlife, maintaining viable population of species, conserving wildlife and threatened species. It thus helps in maintaining ecological and evolutionary processes that enhance and sustain biodiversity.
Benefits from eco-tourism and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are additional ones from the forest PAs. Forest dwellers are greatly benefited through managing and maintaining the PAs as they provide ecosystem services, including food, drinking water, and fuel. Through increased supply of resources, forest-dependent communities get livelihood support from the PAs, thus, supporting empowerment of marginalized populations. Forest PA co-management increases carbon sequestration and supports land stabilization. These areas often add cultural and spiritual value by holding gene pool significant for medicines, agriculture and forestry. Co-management of PAs can also offer protection towards people and properties against natural calamities which are expected to increase with changing climate.
The impacts of co-management system have been assessed and documented in different phases of Nishorgo Support project and its follow up phases like IPAC and CREL. The sustainability and effectiveness of this system in different PAs beyond projects is not well understood. Implementation success and challenges of the relatively new Protected Area Management Rules, 2017 is also not clear in absence of a monitoring system in place.
Over the last more than 20 years, the concept of co-management has evolved through different community-based natural resource management projects in Bangladesh in wide range of habitats led, facilitated and implemented by different government, non-government and donor agencies. Some important initiatives include Management of Aquatic ecosystems through Community Husbandry project (MACH, 1998−2002), Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP, 1998−2005), Community Based Fisheries Management Project (CBFM-II, 2001−2007), Nishorgo Support Project (NSP, 2004−2009), Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity Management Programme (CWBMP, 2003−2011), Community Based Sustainable Management of Tanguar Haor Project (CBSMTHP, 2006−2018), Integrated Protected Area Co-Management (IPAC, 2009−2012), Community Based Adaptation in the Ecologically Critical Areas through Biodiversity Conservation and Social Protection Project (CBA-ECA Project, 2010−2015), Strengthening Regional Co-operation for Wildlife Protection (SRCWP, 2011−2016), Climate Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods project (CREL, 2013−2018), Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity (Bagh Project, 2014−2018), and Management of the Sundarbans Mangrove Forests for Biodiversity Conservation and Increased Adaptation to Climate Change (SMP, 2015−2019). The recently started Sustainable Forests and Livelihoods (SUFAL, 2018−2023) has adopted a different dimension of forest co-management beyond PAs, in 169 sub-districts under 28 districts in three different ecosystems: plains, hills and coastal areas of Bangladesh.
The lessons from these projects has been captured in many cases, which helped wider replication and scaling up. Nevertheless, there a few challenges to implement PA co-management in Bangladesh, these include accountability and transparency of CMCs; political manipulation and command and control by the local elites; laws, rules and policies are not widely and clearly shared with local communities; exploitation of PAs in terms of local empowerment and overuse of biological resources, for example illegal logging and wood harvesting, land encroachment, and wildlife poaching; unplanned ecotourism; human settlements and aquaculture and agricultural practices within the PAs; and poor recognition of local and indigenous people’s traditional forest rights leading conflicts and mistrusts among the PA managers and the local resource users.
Government strategies, action plans, and polices are supportive of protected area co-management, and many projects have been implemented by the Government of Bangladesh under different environmental and development funding engaging NGOs as partners.
The Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012 has highlighted various provisions of protected areas, ranging from declaration of sanctuaries, safari park, community conservation area and others; entry and restrictions and management procedures to these areas. The section 21 specifically defines the co-management system for the protection of the forest areas of Bangladesh. The Protected Area Management Rules 2017, aided by the Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012 further stabilized the co-management approaches in the country whereby peoples’ engagement and benefits are ensured. This rule guides how to manage PA and institutionalize all of the structure by involving the local government and local community. Guideline clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities, including managing ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, project planning and budget, awareness raising activities of different committee and forum to manage and maintain the protected areas. The draft National Forest Policy 2016 appreciates co-management of PAs. It highlights the protection of PAs in its core objectives to secure wildlife habitat, forest ecosystems, enhance groundwater recharge and stream flow and watershed management. Also, it mentioned about creating core and buffer zones around PAs and community participation in managing PAs.
Data not available.