Ms Zeenath Reza Khan, an academic at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, was invited by the Bangladeshi community, under the patronage of the NRB Khulna Group, to conduct a workshop on the importance of forests world-wide, on the occasion of the UN’s International Day of Forests, 2013.
The workshop, held in a unique outdoor setting, was conducted in the presence of HH Abu Zafar, the Bangladesh Consulate General of Dubai and other dignitaries. It covered the concept of eco-systems and the importance of forests, focusing primarily on Bangladesh’s Shundorbons (Sundarban Forests), which have been declared by the UN as a World Heritage Site and the World’s largest mangrove eco-system.
“Besides housing a variety of exotic wildlife and flora that are crucial to the eco-system of the country, mangrove forests have the capacity to absorb 30-40% of a tsunami or typhoon’s force,” said Ms Khan at the workshop. “This makes Shundorbons very critical to the survival of villages and towns surrounding the forest.”
Ms Khan was also accompanied by members of UOWD’s Amra Notun Bangladesh Expat Student Association (BESA), including President, Fariha Khan; Vice President, Nooren Khan; and Public Relations Officer, Maqsood Shahid. The students and Ms Khan were invited to the event following the awareness campaign they launched last year, through a field trip organised under the guidance of the award-winning scientist and bird-lover, Dr Reza Khan, Specialist of Wildlife and Zoo Management at Dubai Municipality.
During the field trip, the students learned about the flora and fauna of the UAE and how the UAE government has fought against the extinction of local species such as the Arabian Oryx through innovative breeding programs, re-introducing them to nature, developing sanctuaries and protected areas, and much more. The students presented their findings at the workshop to an audience of around 100 members of the community, and suggested similar awareness programs and initiatives that could be implemented by the expat Bangladeshi population towards saving Shundorbons. The workshop ended with a short on-the-spot quiz for the children attending.
The workshop was part of a day-long program organised by the NRB Khulna Group, which has been actively working towards raising awareness among the expat community about the environment and forestry.
“Khulna is the district in Bangladesh that has the privilege of being the home of Shundorbons. This is why we took the initiative to begin an awareness program here,” said Mr Mohammad Moinul Islam, senior member of the NRB Khulna Group. “As Ms Khan and her students are very active in their role and goodwill towards the environment, our group and audience were highly appreciative of their session.”