Date(s) - 30/01/2016 - 02/02/2016
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The Sundarbans region has long been one of India’s most fragile frontiers , a mangrove swampland habitat separating the expanding Indian population from the Bay of Bengal. Earlier British India and later government, viewed this area as wasteland, and a great deal of hard labor was spent in making use of the land. It is an archipelago of 104 islands located in the State of West Bengal in eastern India in the Ganges Delta, stretching into southern Bangladesh. 54 islands are uninhabited yet the population is 5 million on the Indian side alone while the Bangladesh side has more than 300 million.They form the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world. Like many mangrove areas, these coastal forests provide vital protection for millions of people from climate change impacts, cyclones, tidal surges, and coastal erosion.
A recent study “Securing A Resilient Future for Bangladesh Sundarbans” finds that population pressure and the impacts of climate change has put this unique ecosystem under threat. Compared to when first mapped in 1764, Sundarbans is now barely a third of its original size – and it is continuing to shrink. Local communities are struggling to survive with almost 50% living below the poverty line. For those who live on the edge of the Sundarbans, the situation is serious. But it is not hopeless.
Mangroves help buffer against nature’s harsh elements, particularly in relation to the communities of the Sundarbans, as studied in the report ‘Livelihood Project in Focus’. Demographic accounts of women in the Sundarbans have them numbering about 932 for every 1,000 men. The conversion of forested land into rice paddies by locals continued converting the Sundarbans jungles to wet rice fields and were heavily influenced by their colonizers. As a result, the Sundarbans storms have become more frequent. From 1891-1960, there were 16 severe tropical storms that pounded Bangladesh; between 1961-1977, there were 19. Deforestation of the mangroves that once helped to protect that coast from high winds and waves is thought to be part of the reason. In 1900, 40% of India was covered with jungle and in Sundarbans it is 140,000 ha. Today, about one-third of those trees remain. Similarly, the Sundarbans is losing its trees, particularly in the land-girded north, as attempts at industry, tourism, and land reclamation are made.In July 2014th the rising tides washed away almost the whole of Mausani islanders at the southern edge of Sundarbans in west Bengal and it took the district adm.more than two days to reach out to them. Within the past three hundred years, the two horned rhinoceros, the Indian cheetah, the golden eagle, and the pink headed duck, all species indigenous to the Sundarbans, have disappeared. Cyclones are more frequent and powerful. And it is believed that the conversion of the natural forest to agriculture means that people are abandoning their gods.thousands of people have lost their lives due to man eaters.Access and information to the region remains a challenge.