Staff Reporter

KOLKATA: The Ministry for Environment and Forests is negotiating an integrated coastal zone management project worth $ 200 million (approximately Rs. 900 crores) with the World Bank, of which $ 50 million (approximately Rs. 225 crores) will be allocated for the estuarine islands of the Sunderbans, Union Minister of State for Environment, Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday.

The funds, to be utilised over a 5-year period, will be employed in projects relating to eco tourism, coastal erosion protection, improvement of the livelihood of the people who live in the fringe areas of the forests, construction of cyclone shelters, electrification projects and building capacity of universities and institute that provide technical support.

The project is expected to come through in June this year, he said adding that the Sunderban Development Board will be responsible for the control and management of these funds.

The decision to set up an Indo-Bangla Sunderban Ecosystem Forum, which would bring together people working in conservation of the Sunderbans from India and Bangladesh was announced by Mr. Ramesh after his visit to the islands on Tuesday.

‘Little interest’

“Bangladesh has been very keen to work with us in the past, but there has been little interest from our side. It would be very beneficial if, for example, we work together in conducting a tiger census,” he said adding that the first meeting will be held within the four months.

Mr. Ramesh also announced a number of projects based on funds allocated by the Centre. Plans are on the anvil for the setting up of the proposed National Institute for Research in Mangroves and Coastal bio-resources in the Sunderbans.