Bangladesh has imposed a single-use plastic ban in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, following concerns that tourists were damaging the ecosystem with their garbage.
The Sundarbans forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to leopards, tigers, deer, rhinoceros, buffaloes, hogs, monkeys and many more animals. The mangrove is also essential in protecting coastlines from erosion and filtering pollutants.
The ban covers an area of 6,500 square kilometers and is expected to have a significant impact on reducing the pollution of the area’s waterways and protecting wildlife from the harmful effects of plastic waste.
According to government figures, around 200,000 tourists visit the area each year. These visitors are responsible for bringing disposable water bottles, plastic food plates, soft drink bottles, and cans into the forest, which can be challenging to clean up.
“Single-use plastics have severely damaged the environment and biodiversity of the Sundarbans,” Bangladesh environment minister Mohammad Shahab Uddin said. Environmentalists hailed the decision, adding that the situation is worse than what meets the eye, with wild animals often consuming the plastics.
Besises plastic, the Sundarbans is also under threat from fishing, and pollution. Conservationists have been sounding the alarm over environmental threats of a coal power plant to the Sundarbans. The forest’s northern edge houses a coal power plant that began operations last year, and environmentalists say it is a significant threat to the ecosystem.