Nijhum Dweep National Park - A Jewel in the Bay of Bengal
A significant portion of the small island of Nijhum Dweep (also referred to as Nijhum Dwip), located in the Bay of Bengal under the jurisdiction of the Noakhali District of Bangladesh, was designated in 2001 as the Nijhum Dweep National Park. The park is rich in plant and animal life, as well as being home to plentiful bird-life, while hosting numerous migratory birds.
The forestry department of Bangladesh created lush mangrove forests in Nijhum Dweep as part of conservation efforts for the area. One of the main attractions in these forests is the herd of Spotted Deer, which is believed to number more than 5,000. The Keora (or Kerfa) tree was chosen for its fast growing root system, which anchors itself into the sandy ground. The leaves of this hardy tree are the spotted deer’s favorite food, but most of the leaves are too high for the deer to reach. In an excellent example of how animals help one another, the resident monkeys shake or pluck the leaves from the trees, dropping them where the deer can pick them up. The wood of the trees is used in the construction of housing, as materials for boat manufacture and the manufacture of agricultural implements, as well as fuel for domestic use. Other animals that visitors are likely to see in the Nijhum Dweep National Park and off its shores include Clawless Otter, Fishing Cat, Snakes, Tortoises, Turtles and Dolphins.
At high tide a significant potion of the island becomes covered in water, apart from the cultivated, inhabited areas. In addition to the mangrove forest, the island has huge inter-tidal mudflats and sand-flats, which are of utmost importance to resident and migratory water-fowl, and serves as the southern most stop-over for close to 100 species of migratory birds, around a dozen of which are considered to be globally critically endangered. Birding enthusiasts can look out for various species of Heron, Egret, Cormorant and Ibis, as well as Spotted Green Shank, Spotted Red Shank, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Indian Skimmer.
The inhabited part of the island is cultivated and watered by a number of fresh water streams running across it. The people living on Nijhum Dweep make a living from fishing, and are self-sustaining to an extent through the produce they grow and there are a few markets on the island, selling all types of general necessities.
Those who have visited the Nijhum Dweep National Park will tell you that getting there is an adventure in itself, with the last leg of the journey on a local motorboat or “water-taxi”. But the general consensus is that the Nijhum Dweep National Park is a fascinating place to explore when visiting Bangladesh, and becoming acquainted with the people who live on the island is an unforgettable experience.