WASHINGTON: As part of its effort to strengthen regional cooperation for wildlife protection in Asia, the World Bank has approved a $39 million financial assistance to Bangladesh and Nepal.
The project, under which $36 million will be granted to Bangladesh and $3 million to Nepal, will address conservation threats to habitats in border areas and clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade of species such as tiger, snow leopard, rhinoceros and elephant in increasingly fragmented habitats.
"Conservation of Asia's emblematic tiger would lead to improved natural habitat for all species and ultimately healthy ecosystems for South Asia," World Bank's South Asia Vice President Isabel Guerrero said.
The assistance to Bangladesh is mainly for protecting the dwindling numbers of tigers.
Bangladesh holds the largest remaining population of tigers in the Sundarbans region. However, the country's environmental and ecological balance is under severe threat and studies indicate that 4-5% of faunal species and about 10% of floral diversity have become extinct in the last century.
The Bank said Nepal's biodiversity is also extremely important for the country's economy as well as the well-being of its people.
Forests, which comprise 29% of Nepal's land area contribute to about 10% of the country's economy and represent a daily source of fuel wood, food, fodder, timber and medicinal plants for about 80% of the country's population.
South Asia is home to 13-15% of the world's biodiversity and hosts some of the most endangered species on Earth.
Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal are home to over 65% of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers.
However, deforestation, habitat loss, pollution and poaching of wild animals have put the environmental and ecological balance under severe threat, it said.
"Economic growth pressures on our planet have resulted in unprecedented extinction of species: one in eight bird species, one in four mammals and one in three amphibians are threatened.
"And yet, biodiversity is critical to maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and the ecological processes that support human beings," said Guerrero.