Sundarbans. Prothom Alo file photoFive air-polluting cement factories located within the ecologically critical area of the Sundarbans Reserve Forest have been given environmental clearance, forest minister Shahab Uddin told parliament on Saturday, reports UNB.The factories are Meghna Cement Mills Ltd, Bashundhara Cement Mills Ltd, Mongla Cement Mills Ltd, Dubai-Bangla Cement Mills Ltd, and Holcim (Bangladesh) Ltd.”These air-polluting cement factories have been given environment clearance certificates in Mongla port industrial areas under Bagerhat district,” he told parliament, replying to a tabled question from Bangladesh Workers Party MP Lutfun Nesa Khan (reserved seat-48).Although the government declared 10-km area surrounding the Sundarbans Reserve Forest as ecologically critical one, the factories are located in places only six kilometres away from the forest.The Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, is a World Heritage Site. Rich in natural beauty and biodiversity, the forest boasts some flora and fauna unique to this region. It is home to globally endangered species such as the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Ganges and Irrawardy dolphins and the critically endangered endemic river terrapin.Minister Shahab Uddin said the Department of Environment regularly monitors the factories and provides suggestions to their entrepreneurs so that the industrial units cannot pollute the environment.Besides, there are some industrial entities, including LPG plant, but these are not environment-polluting ones, said Shahab Uddin.Replying to another question from Awami League MP Momotaz Begom (Manikganj-2), he said the number of Sundari tree has declined, but that of Gewa has increased in the Sundarbans.Sundari tree covered 20 per cent of the Sundarbans in 1985. The coverage came down to 18 per cent in 2013, the minister said, adding that the area covered by Gewa tree has gone up to 5.25 per cent from 4.5 per cent.