The centre is managed by the Nature Conservation Committee (NCC) in association with the Bangladesh Wetland Bureau (BWB), both being nongovernment organisations.
The mission is to attain a sustainable coastal ecosystem management for the better life of coastal community. The main activities of the centre are to educate, raise awareness, and train grassroots people on coastal ecosystem and wise use of wetlands.
Funded by monies raised by NCC from private and corporate sources.
NCC is a field-based, non-profit, nongovernment active environment organisation working to promote protection and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity in Bangladesh. NCC is dedicated to conserving wildlife and its habitat. It is engaged in nature education, wildlife survey, waterfowl census, wetland monitoring, wildlife habitat conservation and related research and conservation activities. It works with both Government and nongovernment organisations.
NCC is a membership-based organisation managed by an elected body. The centre is not yet membership based, although this is an aim in progress.
The centre was opened in 2005 by NCC with the help of the local community.
Three salaried staff (curator, community organiser, one trainer) and four volunteers work at the centre. Experts and resource persons from NCC and BWB visit as needed. As the person in charge, the Curator prepares a monthly report of activities to NCC and BWB.
The centre is accommodated in a house made from locally available materials such as wood and reeds on its own land measuring a quarter of an acre. The floor space of the house is about 3,000 sq ft. The centre has some field equipment, training, research, and education materials.
Nijhum Dweep, where the centre is located, is a small offshore island with huge intertidal mudflats and sandflats.
The island, isolated from the mainland by about 50 km (80 miles), is partially covered with mangrove swamp forest. The island is dissected by small creeks or canals and the centre part is under cultivation and human habitation. At high tide, most of the island with the exception of the agricultural land, is inundated. Tidal mudflats are very important habitat for migratory and resident waterbirds.
Flora – the mangrove forests have Sonneratia apetala, Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Acanthus ilicifolius, Aegiceras majus, Avicennia sp and patches of Typha elephantina.
Fauna – Fish include Hilsha ilisha, Danio spp and Glossogobius giuris. There is a large breeding colony of herons, egrets, cormorants, ibis – mainly Nycticorax nycticorax, Ardeola grayii, Bubulucus ibis, Egretta garzetta, Ardea cinerea, and A. purpurea.
Water fowl include Dendrocygna javanica, Anser indicus, Tadorna tadorna, T. ferruginea, Nattapus coromandelianus, Aythya fuligula, Gallicrex cynerea and a wide variety of shorebirds, gulls, terns and the Clawless Otter, Aonyx cinerea and Fishing Cat, Felis viverrina, are common.
The mangrove forest of the island is a breeding ground of about 5,000 Spotted Deer. Reptiles include three monitor species, Varanus bengalensis, V. flavescens, V. salvator, as well as several species of snakes, turtles and tortoises.t
Socio cultural – the island is inhabited by about 20,000 people whose main occupations are fishing and part cultivation.
The main season of fishing and cultivation (rice) is during the monsoon. The people mainly become jobless in the winter.
About 95% live below the poverty line. Neighbouring mainland powerful people control the economic and commercial activities as the island is the major fish supply station.
CEPA activities include:
Door to door campaigns
Posters and leaflet display and distribution
Meeting with local community in village bazaar, mosques and primary schools
Meeting with community leaders
Monthly community meeting at the centre
Ecofair and eco-cultural festival at the centre once a year.
Educating local children through nonformal nature education curriculum
Training and educating local people on poverty alleviation through wise use of wetland resources
Training local people as ecotour guides
Onsite training to local conservation group on species identification, ecosystem knowledge and habitat analysis
Informal (general public) learning
The centre was established by NCC and BWB to build community-based wetland conservation centre to build awareness, and to educate/train/mobilise people for the wise use of wetland resources. This is especially important – 50% of Bangladeshs’s land area (7-8 million ha) is wetland including numerous low-lying islands and mangroves – the coastal zone extends for about 480 km from the Indian border in the west to Myanmar in the southeast.
These abundant coastal wetlands support a wide variety of biodiversity with many commercially important species. Millions of people depend on these resources for their livelihoods.
Excessive dependence and lack of awareness of wise use of wetland functions and values has led to the region becoming ecologically threatened.
Threats include extensive fishing, livestock grazing of mud/sand flats, illegal hunting (esp. waterfowl), illegal settlers clearing land for rice production and encroaching into the mangrove forest.
The centre welcomes peers and professionals, although not on a regular basis. In the past many professionals came on paid visits. We hope this will continue as we strengthen our activities.