Khulna: A 10-day 'Shushuk Mela' (Dolphin Fair) kicked off at Hadis Park in the city on Sunday, aiming to protect the endangered mammals through raising mass awareness on its conservation.
The Sundarbans is the home to Asia's last two remaining freshwater dolphin species - globally endangered Gan-ges River Dolphin and Irrawaddy Dolphin.
Both these species are threatened with extinction due to over exploitation, unsustainable resource harvesting and livelihoods, poaching, industrial development, maritime traffic, and unplanned tourism.
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Bangladesh Forest Department with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have initiated a project called "Expanding the Protected Area System to Incorporate Important Aquatic Ecosystems (EPASIIAE)" in 2016 to engage community in conserving the aquatic animals and build the local capacity to reduce the pressure on water resources.
The project is also working to expand the operational coverage of dolphins and create alternative nature-based livelihood option for the fishermen.
October 24 was the International Fresh Water Dolphin Day and to mark the day, UNDP in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and CNRS organized a nationwide campaign.
After a three-day event in Dhaka, a 'Shushuk Mela' is being organized in Khulna and around the Sundarbans.
The boat-based, interactive exhibition will travel to remote fishing villages for 10 days to gain support for aquatic wildlife, sustainable fisheries and climate change adaptation, and engaging local people in respectful consultations on natural resource management.
Puppet show, bioscope, art and crafts exhibition etc were also arranged for the children.
Mayor of Khulna City Talukdar Abdul Khalek inaugurated the fair that will continue until November 15. .
Addressing the program, He said, " The Sundarbans is not only an asset for Khulna but also for the country, we all need to protect this largest mangrove forest for safeguarding the nature. And to protect the Sundarbans we need to conserve the all aquatic animals to keep the biodiversity alive."
Arif Mohammad Faisal, Program Specialist, UNDP said, "UNDP is working to bring the government, civil society, private sector, researchers and climate experts and fisher folk community together in a single platform to protect aquatic biodiversity of Sundarbans which is essential to achieve the SDG14: life below water."
He also urged the government to declare dolphin as the 'Aquatic National Animal' that will help for the conser-vation of dolphins. "If we want to save dolphins we must stop pollution around the Sundarbans" Arif said.
Raquibul Amin, Country Representative IUCN Bangladesh said, "We all need to come forward to conserve the wildlife of Sundarbans including dolphins.
ABM Sarwar Alam, Program Coordinator, IUCN made the keynote paper presentation on expanding the pro-tected area system to incorporate important aquatic ecosystems, while Md Modinul Ahsan, National Project Director and Divisional Forest Officer, Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, Khulna gave the welcome remarks.
Dolphin fair begins in Khulna