Kolkata: Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has initiated her efforts to convert biodiversity zone of Sundarbans into an international tourist destination.

Speculations are rife that Mamata would discuss the beautification plans of Sundarbans with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the two political stalwarts visit Bangladesh in the first week of September.

Chief Minister informed that through the joint efforts of India, Bangladesh and the World Bank plans are afoot to metamorphose world heritage of Sundarbans as international level tourist resort.

It needs to be mentioned that the World Bank has taken the responsibility to conserve the biodiversity and to fillip the socio-economic development of the Sundarbans which cover India and Bangladesh.

State's Sundarbans Affairs Minister, Shyamal Mondal said, “On the recommendation of the Planning Commission the project has been taken into consideration. Efforts are being made for the timely execution of the project."

Mondal mentioned that the former Left Front government prepared no projects for the development of the Sundarbans. He alleged that till date the development work of the area has been made possible by state exchequer and financial aid from the Centre.

Laying thrust on fulfilling the basic requirements of the local populace of Sundarbans, Mondal said the government is keen to raise the standard of living in the region.

He pointed out that to create awareness amongst the kids for the conservation of the Sundarbans, the department celebrated ' Sundarbans Diwas' on August 21.

World Bank to prepare integrated plan for Sundarbans

The World Bank has taken up a mega-project, touted to be the first of its kind, for conserving the rich biodiversity and boosting socio-economic development of the Sundarbans area in West Bengal.

"This has been done according to the recommendation of the Planning Commission of India and (the project) is expected to be complete at the end of this year," state's Sundarbans Affairs Minister Shyamal Mondal said.

The project will be prepared by an international professional organisation, Mondal said, adding under this integrated plan, investment and the planning process could be framed in a well-defined manner.

Steps are also being taken to develop this world heritage site and the biggest mangrove forest, straddling the state and neighbouring Bangladesh, as a major tourist destination promoted jointly by India, Bangladesh and the World Bank, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said recently.

However, some environmentalists claimed that exploitation of natural resources was creating pressure on the ecology and biosphere of this world heritage site.

The change due to global warming imposes serious problems on the rich biodiversity and ecology of this region making it more vulnerable, the experts said.

Some of the important species of flora and fauna are already extinct and many are on the verge of extinction.

Any minor change in the ecological balance of this sensitive biosphere may impose long-term effect in this region as well as in the adjacent areas of the state, they added.

Over 10,000 sq km of the Sundarbans covering India and Bangladesh, comprises a vast area of reserve forests and tidal rivers.

(JPN/Bureau/Agencies)