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Payments for Ecosystem Services in Sustainable Mangrove Forest Management in Bangladesh

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2017

Jona Razzaque
Department of Law, Faculty of Business and Law, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol (United Kingdom). Email:
E-mail address:


In the context of sustainable development, both developed and developing countries are implementing policies that encourage economic growth, environmental protection and social well-being in resource decisions. According to the 2012 Rio+20 Declaration, market-based instruments that complement regulations can offer an economically efficient push to sustainable growth. Market-based instruments, such as payments for ecosystem services (PES) and other market incentives, may play a crucial role in enhancing the livelihoods and wider well-being of poor people. However, for economic tools such as PES to prove valuable in managing natural resources, the decision-making and implementation processes must integrate adequate rights allocation and participatory mechanisms. This article examines forest ecosystem services in the context of the mangrove reserve forest of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest remaining areas of mangroves in the world with an exceptional level of biodiversity. The article argues for a more realistic and equitable approach to PES projects in Bangladesh. It underscores the need for effective participatory tools, third-party monitoring and multi-service PES schemes to improve multiple mangrove ecosystem services in the Sundarbans.

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1 Declaration on the Human Environment, Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm (Sweden), 5–16 June 1972, UN Doc. A/CONF.48/14/Rev.1 Vol. I (1973), para. 3.

2 Sustainable development is defined in the Brundtland Report as development that ‘meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’: World Commission of the Environment and Development, Our Common Future (Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 8; Birnie, P., Boyle, A. & Redgwell, C., International Law and the Environment (Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 116 Google Scholar; Sands, P. & Peel, J., Principles of International Environmental Law, 3rd edn (Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 215 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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4 UNGA Resolution A/RES/66/288, Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly on 27 July 2012: ‘The Future We Want’, UN Doc. A/RES/66/288, 11 Sept. 2012, para. 246 (Rio+20 Declaration). Principles that promote sustainable development include justice, dignity, social inclusion, good governance and accountability, resilience, and inter and intra generational equity: ibid., paras 15–8.

5 UNGA Resolution, ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, UN Doc. A/RES/70/1, 21 Oct. 2015. See also UNGA, Report of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals, UN Doc. A/68/970, 12 Aug. 2014.

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12 Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. They include provisioning services such as food, water, timber and fibre; regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, waste, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic and spiritual benefits; and supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis (Island Press, 2005), p. v, available at:

13 Rio+20 Declaration, n. 4 above, paras 193–6.

14 Ibid., paras 193 and 196.

15 Ibid.

16 The name Sundarbans literally means ‘beautiful forests’. It is also thought that the forest is named after Sundari trees which are found in this mangrove forest: WWF Global, ‘Sundarbans Mangrove: About the Area’, available at:

17 Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation, ‘Tackling the Gaps in “Market Environmentalism” for Mangroves’, 2015, available at:

18 It is a rich area of biodiversity with 334 plant species, 39 animal species, 53 mammalian species, 330 bird species, 120 fish species and 8 amphibian species: UNESCO, ‘The Sundarbans’, available at:

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20 UNESCO, ‘The Sundarbans’, n. 18 above.

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24 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, n. 12 above.

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27 Ibid.

28 Blanco & Razzaque, n. 25 above, pp. 710–8.

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31 UN, ‘The Value of Forests’, n. 26 above, p. 27.

32 Ibid.

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34 UN, ‘The Value of Forests’, n. 26 above, pp. 27–36.

35 Payments for watershed functions seek to link upstream land use and management with downstream water use and management to realize benefits for upstream and downstream participants in the scheme, and others in the area, including benefits to the environment.

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42 Paris (France), 16 Nov. 1972, in force 17 Dec. 1975, available at: or

43 N. 19 above.

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53 Ministry of Environment and Forest, ‘Type of Forests and Management’, available at: (in Bengali).

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55 E.g., the Forest Policy of 1894 and the Forest Policy of 1947–71 prioritized economic interests that led to resource destruction.

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58 Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 4 Nov. 1972, available at: Arts 31 and 32 together incorporate the fundamental ‘right to life’. Art. 31 states that every citizen has the right to protection from ‘action detrimental to the life liberty, body, reputation, or property’. Art. 32 states: ‘No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law’. If these rights are taken away, compensation must be paid.

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67 The other two projects under IPAC are the Chunati Wildlife Sanctuary Management of Natural Resources and Community Forestry Project, and the Bangladesh REDD+ Afforestation, Reforestation and Revegetation in Protected Areas Project: UN-REDD Programme, n. 64 above, p. 38.

68 Nishorgo Support Project, ‘Management Plans for Teknaf Game Reserve’, 2006, available at: The Nishorgo Program of the Forest Department was created in 2004 through support from USAID and the International Resource Group to promote a co-management model for administering the protected areas of Bangladesh, including the Sundarbans, by focusing on building partnerships between the Forest Department and key local, regional and national stakeholders.

69 Khoda, n. 54 above.

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75 Ibid. The mission consisted of 25 experts and officials from Bangladesh government agencies and universities, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, UNDP, USAID, the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, France, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

76 ‘Oil Stained Wastes Finally being Removed from Sundarbans’, 25 Mar. 2015, available at:

77 Sundarbans Oil Spill Assessment, n. 74 above.

78 ‘Bangladesh Lifts Ban on Cargo Boats after Sundarbans Oil Spill’, NDTV, 7 Jan. 2015, available at:

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96 More than 70% of shares in NTPC Ltd are owned by the Government of India.

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119 Cadman & Maraseni, n. 114 above.

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136 Karim, n. 57 above; ADB, n. 71 above.

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142 The SUNDARI Project is officially managed by Concern Worldwide; 31 community based organizations, 18 producers and collectors groups and 1,845 self-help groups have been formed with the targeted 25,000 Sundarbans Dependent Extreme Poor Households: Concern Worldwide, ‘SUNDARI: Protecting the Biodiversity of the Sundarbans by Reducing Human Pressure’, available at:

143 The project works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and supports the implementation of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (n. 86 above). It is particularly relevant for the disaster management, capacity building and institutional strengthening pillars of that strategy: GIZ, ‘Sustainable Development and Biodiversity Conservation in Coastal Protection Forests (2010)’, Project No. 2010.2220.1 (in German), available at:

144 Law Commission (UK), ‘Criminal Liability in Regulatory Contexts’, Consultation Paper No. 195 (2010) p. 3.

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147 According to Gunningham and Sinclair, ‘self-regulation entails social control by an industry association, whereas voluntarism is based on the individual firm undertaking to do the right thing unilaterally, without any basis in coercion’: N. Gunningham & D. Sinclair, Designing Smart Regulation (1999), pp. 1–19, at 16, available at:

148 E.g., the ADB’s role in the SBCP; Hossain & Roy, n. 72 above; ADB, n. 71 above.

149 E.g., the role of NTPC Ltd and the World Bank in the proposed Rampal Power Plant Project: BankTrack, n. 100 above; Inclusive Development International, ‘“Disaster for Us and the Planet”: How the IFC is Quietly Funding a Coal Boom – Outsourcing Development: Lifting the Veil on the World Bank Group’s Lending Through Financial Intermediaries’, Part 1, Oct. 2016, available at:

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