The aim of the sanctuary is to protect and restore aquatic biodiversity (particularly fish and birds) in Hail Haor. A secondary aim is through the visitor facilities to enhance enjoyment of the site and understanding of nature, the value of wetlands and need for their conservation.
Funding support: Endowment fund established by MACH (Management of Aquatic Ecosystems through Community Husbandry) an earlier USAID funded project, visitor fees, grants from MACH project.
Number of staff: Two guards are employed by the RMO at the sanctuary, but it is a voluntary community based organisation.
Overall aims of the centre
The aim of the sanctuary is to protect and restore aquatic biodiversity (particularly fish and birds) in Hail Haor. A secondary aim is through the visitor facilities to enhance enjoyment of the site and understanding of nature, the value of wetlands and need for their conservation.The sanctuary and its facilities are a model that can encourage replication of similar sanctuaries elsewhere in the country.
Baikka Beel is a 100 ha wetland sanctuary located in Hail Haor a large wetland seasonally extending from 3,000-12,000 ha in north-east Bangladesh
Baikka tower and bids
Baikka Beel comprises of open water with emergent vegetation (mostly lotus), and a fringe of native swamp forest planted in 5-8 years ago. Originally it was
protected to conserve and restore fish and it supports about 90 species of fish, but populations of wintering waterbirds rapidly increased.
So far 141 bird species have been recorded in the sanctuary. Up to 9 Pallas’s Fish Eagles winter, Large flocks of ducks including up to 4,500 Fulvous Whistling-duck occur in winter, Great Spotted Eagle is regular, and good numbers and diversity of shorebirds, marshland warblers and other birds occur.
Mammals are few but include Fishing Cat. A visitor tower with several permanent interpretive displays was opened in early 2007. This is the only such facility in the country and this is the only substantial community managed wetland sanctuary in the country.
It is planned to construct a visitor centre and other facilities in 2010 with funds left over from the earlier MACH project. Visitor number have not been recorded as reliably as would be ideal, but are in the low thousands per year and include student groups, diverse government officials, and a wide range of foreign visitors.
The site was set aside by government as a sanctuary in 2003 to be managed by a community based organization (Borogangina RMO) formed through a USAID funded project called MACH implemented by a consortium of NGOs: Winrock International, CNRS, Caritas and BCAS.
That project ended in 2008, the sanctuary continues to operate and now has links with a successor USAID funded project IPAC (Integrated Protected Area Co-management) which provides support to a wide range of protected areas in Bangladesh including the Hail Haor wetland of which Baika Beel is part.
Main CEPA work areas
Borogangina RMO is a people’s organization composed of about 60 local households. There has been quite a lot of informal awareness raising locally and nationally by the RMO regarding the sanctuary, including newspaper press coverage and also university visits. A video documentary on the sanctuary was made by MACH and aired on TV and used in various forums.
Top three successes
Community protection of sanctuary – compliance is high and the RMO has limited the level of poaching of fish and of netting of birds, although this remains a threat particularly when water levels are low.
Swamp forest restoration, there was none left here, after a slow start hijal Barringtonia acutangula and koroch Pongamia pinnata are growing well.
Nest boxes for Cotton Pygmy-geese – the only scheme for this in the wild, several successful broods (although no increase in population winter and boxes have not lasted long before needing replacing).
Top three challenges
Habitat restoration through dredging – mixed results.
Encroachment with fish ponds in neighbouring areas.
Maintaining visitor records and collecting fees with low paid and limited skill guards, and generating some income from the conservation initiative.
Maintaining display boards and problems of weatherproofing.
Hail Haor has been suggested as a Ramsar site and information sheets prepared but after initial interest from Department of Fisheries and Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock this was not pursued further.
No schools programme has so far been developed, one problem is schools lack any funds to take classes to the field.
Paul Thompson, Oriental Bird Club representative for Bangladesh, House 32 Road 10 Block D, Banani, Dhaka, Bangladesh
T: 880 1713 017825
Mokhlesur Rahman, Executive Director, Center for Natural Resources Studies, Dhaka
Md Mazharul Islam (Zahangir), Regional Director, IPAC project, Srimangal