Developing decision support tools for Bangladesh


In a bid to step up conservation efforts in Bangladesh, ICIMOD and Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) are working on developing Decision Support Tools (DST) for protected area management.

The DST has been conceived as a set of web-based tools to integrate remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) with various analytical and visualization tools to support the management decisions. The Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary, in Cox's Bazar District, has been chosen as the pilot site for the DST development. 

Therefore, a consultative workshop was organized to seek inputs from various stakeholders in identifying the issues and priority features to design the DST. This was done within the framework of SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative supported by USAID and NASA, and in collaboration with Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD).

At the workshop, Dr Mariam Akhtar of Resource Information Management System (RIMS) made a comprehensive presentation highlighting the GIS and remote sensing applications for protected areas at the Bangladesh Forest Department. She described the ongoing efforts on database development and change studies in different protected areas using various data sources.

Similarly, Mr Abu Syed of BCAS talked about the need for such GIS-based decision support tools. He highlighted potential linkages with other initiatives like Climate Resilient Ecosystem and Livelihood (CREL) which priorities ecosystem and livelihoods. 

This was followed by a presentation by Mr Birendra Bajracharya of ICIMOD on the concepts of DST in the context of protected area management and institutionalization of these tools in the management processes. A presentation on technological options for DST design was also done by Mr Sudip Pradhan of ICIMOD.  

After the technical presentations, the participants were divided into four groups to discuss the following in the context of Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • the key features, functions of DST and issues to be addressed; 
  • the nature of data available with different organizations and data gaps;
  • data flow and information sharing policies and mechanisms; 
  • the institutional arrangement for the DST and Protected Area management;
  • stakeholders and their roles under different thematic areas, and;
  • the mode of collaborations among various stakeholders.

Many issues identified by the groups were common, indicating consensus on the key areas related to protected area management in Teknaf. The issues identified were encroachment, Rohinga refugees, land use conversion, illicit felling, wildlife poaching, habitat destruction, climate change, loss of biodiversity, sedimentation in river streams, destruction of forest for fuel wood, ecosystem fragmentation, watershed degradation, jhum (shifting cultivation), and the need for capacity building of the personnel. 

Participants said the DST must support the data and information needs to address these issues. Some areas suggested for desired functions and features of the DST were eco-tourism management, land use planning and monitoring, forest resources management, planning and monitoring, and watershed management.

Bangladesh has been one of the most disaster-struck countries in the region. The country has experienced extreme climate events, excessive land degradation and habitat fragmentation, and depletion of a wide variety of ecosystem products and services that are an important source of food, medicine, and livelihood for the people. There are 34 protected areas in the country, and Bangladesh Forest Department takes the lead role in managing these protected areas.

Organizers said the workshop was a success in terms of bringing the stakeholders on board and sensitizing them on the initial outline of DST features. 

The workshop was held at the conference hall of Bangladesh Forest Department headquarters on 2 July 2013.  It was chaired by Mr Yunus Ali, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department, and co-chaired by Dr Atiq Rahman, Executive Director, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies. 

Over 40 people participated in the workshop from 15 different organizations in Bangladesh including Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization, Bangladesh Forest Research Institute, Department of Environment, Chittagong Hill Tracts Rural Development Project Phase-II, Bangladesh Water Development Board, University of Dhaka, University of Chittagong, Institute of Water Modelling, Centre for Environment and Geographic Information Services, BCAS, Bangladesh Forest Department, and ICIMOD.