Proposed REDD+ project for the Sundarbans: Legal and institutional issues

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Saiful Karim


Sundarbans, a Ramsar and World Heritage site, is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world covering parts of Bangladesh and India. Natural mangroves were very common along the entire coast of Bangladesh. However, all other natural mangrove forests, including the Chakaria Sundarbans with 21,000 hectares of mangrove, have been cleared for shrimp cultivation. Against this backdrop, the Forest Department of Bangladesh has developed project design documents for a project called ‘Collaborative REDD+ Improved Forest Management (IFM) Sundarbans Project’ (CRISP) to save the only remaining natural mangrove forest of the country. This project, involving conservation of 412,000 ha of natural mangrove forests, is expected to generate, over a 30-year period, a total emissions reduction of about 6.4 million tons of CO2. However, the successful implementation of this project involves a number of critical legal and institutional issues. It may involve complex legal issues such as forest ownership, forest use rights, rights of local people and carbon rights. It may also involve institutional reforms. Ensuring good governance of the proposed project is very vital considering the failure of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded and Bangladesh Forest Department managed ‘Sundarbans Biodiversity Conservation Project’. Considering this previous experience, this paper suggests that a comprehensive legal and institutional review and reform is needed for the successful implementation of the proposed CRISP project. This paper argues that without ensuring local people’s rights and their participation, no project can be successful in the Sundarbans. Moreover, corruption of local and international officials may be a serious hurdle in the successful implementation of the project.

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