Cultural and Ecosystem Services from a Natural Heritage Site: A Case of Sundarban


Sundarban plays an important role in ecotourism and livelihood development as the natural heritage site. Both domestic and international tourists visit Sundarban for recreation and learning. International visitors come to see the World Heritage Site Sundarban crossing the boundaries. There is no boundary for heritage and cultural tourism. Revenue comes from tourism and indirect support services contribute to the local and national economy through natural heritage tourism. Direct and indirect employment opportunities have been created for the community. Boat riding, fishing, local food, accommodation, local transport, handicrafts, and guide services are the important field of employment. At the natural site like Sundarban, people can present their culture (folk song, occasional festivals) and heritage (temples) to domestic and international tourists. Students and researchers come to the site for education and research for gaining new insights into it. Sundarban also teaches people about biodiversity, wildlife habitats, protection and regulation services, and how to living with nature. It was understood that human endurance pursuit is coimected with the attraction of the adjoining environment. Nature has been departed due to human activities and so-called progress, but the heritage site put them together for the conservation of their culture and identity. Heritage tourism is the safest effort for the protection of frail flora and fauna as well as makes better engagement opportunities to the community people. The Sundarban resolves many problems for the community including their livelihoods, natural resources conservation, cultures, values, and the spirit of the local community. Cultural ecosystem services and traditional ecosystem knowledge can connect the local community and mangroves for the sustainability of culture, heritage, and livelihood. There is no boundary of natural heritage tourism from international perspectives. Local culture and history is the main concern of natural heritage.


The Sundarban is the biggest mangrove forest in the world covers 10,000 km2 land and water. It also covers a total of 75 compartments of which 55 compartments in Bangladesh and the remaining part in India. It occupies on the delta of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. The geographical location of Sundarbans Reserve Forest between latitude 21° 27' 30" and 22° 30' 00" North and longitude 89° 02' 00" and 90° 00' 00" East. The land of Sundarban composed of exposed sandbars (70%) and water bodies (30%). The annual rainfall of the Sundarban ranges from 1500 to 2000 nun with the estuarine water temperature 20-35°C (Rahman and Asaduzzaman, 2010; Sunny, 2017). It locates at the coastline (low), with tidal water reaching up to 110 km inland and extended mangrove (Spalding et al., 2010). More than 5 million people are living in the Sundarban peripheral regions from India and Bangladesh for their livelihoods (Neogi et al., 2017). In 1997, the UNESCO has recognized and declared the Sundarban as the World Heritage Site (Islam and Islam, 2003). The Sundarban contains a wide range of fauna and flora. It was reported that Sundarban is the harbor of 70 plant species from 34 species (Heining, 1892) and 1136 wildlife species (Forest Department, 2018). It is quite impossible to maintain the Sundarban by “command and control’’ and tourism-based interventions only (Chakraborty et al., 2018). Rather cultural services, several factors of socioeconomic and eco-political bottlenecks including poverty, and breaching of laws and corruption prevail at many levels (Rahman et al., 2010). Different services are provided by this natural heritage such as provisioning direct services (timber, fuel, housing materials, and nontimber forest products), cultural services (tourism), and protection services like cyclone, storm, tidal surges, and flood (Uddin et al., 2013). Almost 3.5 million people are getting all sorts of services from Sundarban Mangrove (Giri et al., 2007). Services and natural heritage are exposed by natural factors as well as human-induced factors. Sea level rise (Gilman et al., 2008) and stress to biodiversity (Luetz, 2008) are important among natural factors. According to the report of FAO (2010), 112 countries have few classified mangrove areas covering 15.6 million hectares and 100 countries have no mangroves out of 212 countries. Biswas et al. (2007) reported that Sundarban provided a variety of services including storing of sedimentation for land acclimatization, human lives protection from storm, cyclones, tidal surges, and inundation, livelihood support for cash economy, water and waste recycling, carbon cycling and oxygen production. Heritage tourism provided important services to the people crossing boundaries for national and international tourists from economic perspectives. Traditional ecosystem knowledge (ТЕК) is very essential for the management of mangroves (Queiroz et al., 2017) at present. The fisheries in the Sundarban have become commercialized (Kroodsma et al., 2018) as well. In Bangladesh the largest mangroves Sundarban plays a key role in the heritage tourism. It attracts tourists apart from Bangladesh due to its recognition as the World Heritage Site and diversified characteristics. Nilkornol, Kachikhali, Kotka, Dublar Char, Shekhertek, and Bari temple are the most attractive tourist spots in Sundarban. Community engagement is very important in heritage tourism to demonstrate their culture, tradition, and role (Islam, 2019). Manyara and Jones (2007) mentioned that community tourism has a direct economic impact on families, socioeconomic, and diversified livelihoods.


The study is based on a typical conceptual framework and the details framework is given in Figure 4.1. It is essentially important to understand the importance of services and livelihood support provided by natural heritage like Sundarban. Eventually, it is important to know how natural heritage Sundarban ecosystem services are contributing for the well-being of the people as well for the country. The study assessed the contribution of

Sundarban to the cultural ecosystem services (CES) (tourism and regulatory sendees) and livelihood. The study also investigates how Sundarban provides cultural services (tourism) for the sustenance of livelihoods.

Provisioning services (Timber, fish, honey, thaching materials)

Regulatory services (protection from storm, cyclone, tidal surges, flood, salinity)

Cultural services tourism, reigious, spiritual, aesthetic, educational, recreational


Heritage Sundarbans

Support services (soil formation, nutrient recycling, primary production)


FIGURE 4.1 Conceptual framework for the study.

Source: Adapted from De Groot et al. (2002).


The following research questions have been deployed for this study:

  • • What are services provided by natural heritage site (Sundarban)?
  • • How ecosystem services support livelihoods?
  • • What are the cultural (tourism) sendees provided by natural Sundarban?
  • • At what extent and how heritage tour ism provide livelihood support to the community people?


The aim of this study is to evaluate how natural heritage provides services and livelihood support for community development. The study addressed the following specific objectives:

  • • To elicit services that are provided by Sundarban as a natural heritage site
  • • Know the site-specific cultural services that derived from Sundarban
  • • Make linkages with cultural services and livelihood sustainability
  • • To find out problems related to heritage tourism in Sundarban
  • • To recommend solutions overcome the problems


The study was conducted in the Sundarban focusing tourist point Nilkomol, Kotka, Koromjol, Kachikhali, and Dublar Char (Fig. 4.2), regulating authority (Forest Department (FD) and Police station), and community. Five Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were carried out for this study. Five Key Informants’ Interviews and secondary information were used for this study. The qualitative and quantitative data were deployed for this study. FGD with the concerned people and small households (community people) were earned out for this study. The monetary valuation of cultural services (heritage tourism) has been collected from the Department of Forest (secondaiy data). Both domestic and international tourists have been considered in this calculation.



The World Heritage Site Sundarban is a great place for tourism and coastal protected areas covering three districts such as Bagerhat, Khulna, and Satkhira. The forms of the protected areas are wildlife sanctuaries, fish sanctuaries, Ramsar site, the World Heritage Site, and fish sanctuaries (Table 4.1). The tourists come to visit such places with the permission from the concerned department (Forest Department).

  • 89" 15'
  • 89'30
Location map of the study area

FIGURE 4.2 Location map of the study area.


Several important places were mentioned by the respondents and visitors as the unique place for the natural heritage site. Katka-Kachikhali, Dubla Island, Nill Komol or Hiron Point, Mandarbaria, and Karamjal are the important places for the site.

TAB LE 4.1 Protected Ar eas of Sundarbans.



Area (ha)


Wildlife sanctuaries

Sundarbans East



Sundarbans West



Sundarbans South



Ramsar site

The Sundarbans


Bagerhat. Khulna, and Satkhira

World Heritage Site

Wildlife sanctuaries of the Sundarbans

Bagerhat. Khulna, and Satkhira

Fish sanctuaries

Bagerhat and Khulna

Source: Adapted from Islam (2004). KATKA/KACHIKHALI

Katka/Kachikliali is situated to the vicinity of the Bay of Bengal and exhibits its beautiful khals, flora and fauna. It is one of the important heritage sites of Sunderban. The site provides safaris and the spot to look tigers and watching beautiful birds. The site is the place of numerous rare and grand wild fauna. It was reported by the respondents that the khals of the site offer visibility of deer (Cervz/s unicolor), monkeys (Macaca mulata), Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodilus porosus), masked fin-foot, Gangetic Dolphin (Platinista gangetica) monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), snakes (Python bivittatus), and often a tiger (Panthera tigris) during crossing a khal. There is an observation tower through which tourists can see a large number of different types of deer and sometimes tiger can be found. This place is also known as the hot spot of the Sundarban. DUBLA ISLAND

Dubla Island is very much famous for diy fish. It is the only accessible place for fishing and processing centers especially for dry fish during winter. Rashmela is a religious festival that takes place each and every year in the month of November during the foil moon. A gr oup of visitors comes this time in Dubla Island as reported by the FGD participants. NILL KOMOL/HIRON POINT

The beautiful place of the Sundarban is Nilkomol or Hiron point. This place attracts the tourists from home and abroad to see the unique beauty of the site. It has been erected as the World Heritage Site. MANDARBARIA

It is the place on the southwest side of the Sundarban. This place is very isolated and quiet in nature. Tourists like this place for the exclusive wilderness. The nature lover and silence people love this place more than other places of the Sundarban. KARAM/AL

The place is the key entry point to the Sundarban. Visitors/tourists come here and can move through the Sundarban Reserved Forest. Few wild species have been kept here for captive breeding and most of the visitors like it. Visitors can find mangrove arboretum in Karamjal. The place should be developed as a center for interpretation.

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