IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
The last frontier of the Bengal floodplains, the Sunderbans is a sprawling archipelago of several hundred islands, some large, some minuscule, stretching nearly 300 km between West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is part of the world's largest delta (80,000 sq km) formed from sediments deposited by three great rivers--the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna--as they empty into the Bay of Bengal, and is also among the world's largest mangrove forests.
The region is crisscrossed by a maze of tidal rivers, estuaries and creeks that carry saline water nearly 300 km inland from the Bay of Bengal. The islands are low, marshy alluvial plains that are still in the process of being formed and reformed by continuous siltation and powerful tidal currents. What land the waters swallow from one end, they spit out as sandbanks and new islands at another.
The West Bengal part of the Sunderbans makes up 60 per cent of India's mangroves and comprises 102 islands, of which 54 are inhabited.Most of them were reclaimed and inhabited under the British, who, in the late 1700s, undertook a massive drive to clear the forests and make the land cultivable, so that people could be settled there and the government's revenues augmented.
Over two centuries of converting mangrove forests into paddy land, the exploitation of the area's natural resources, and hunting and poaching have all contributed to the degradation of this region, making it increasingly prone to erosion and vulnerable to storms and cyclones.
The 54 inhabited islands have no forest cover left. However, about 10,000 sq km of the Sunderbans are still covered by swampy mangrove forests (40 per cent of these lie in India and the rest in Bangladesh), much of which vanish under water for several hours a day during high tide. These dense, almost impenetrable estuarine forests have an amazing biodiversity. They are home to over 100 plant species and a variety of animals including Royal Bengal tigers, estuarine crocodiles, sharks, spotted deer, wild boar, Gangetic dolphins, otters, Olive Ridley turtles and numerous species of birds and snakes. These mangroves also act as a natural shield for the Bengal coastline, protecting it from storms, cyclones and tsunamis by absorbing much of their destructive force.
Sugata Hazra, director of Jadavpur University's School of
Oceanographic Studies. His team's research on the Sunderbans has
revealed the enormity of the catastrophe that is waiting to happen.
Opting for understatement, he says climate change and tidal erosion are
an "alarming development". Unfortunately, the state is in denial
The Sunderbans, however, is best known for being the largest remaining natural habitat of the Royal Bengal tiger. It was the realisation that the big cat's numbers were fast dwindling that triggered India's wildlife conservation movement in the 1960s. By then, the changing landscape had already resulted in the disappearance of the leopard, wild water buffalo, Javan rhinoceros, one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, hog deer and several plant species. In 1973, the Indian government declared 2,585 sq km of the Sunderbans a tiger reserve under Project Tiger. In 1985, the area was included in unesco's list of world heritage sites and in 1989, India designated 9,360 sq km of Sunderbans a biosphere reserve.
While these measures helped safeguard what remained of the Sunderbans, they also helped promote its image as a mysterious and exotic forest. An image that relegated the region's human inhabitants to the background and obscured the fact that the Sunderbans supports a population of 3.9 million people, most of whom eke out a precarious living on these fragile, flood- and cyclone-prone lands by farming, collecting forest produce and fishing. This pit the protection and preservation of the mangroves against the needs of the local inhabitants. The population density here is high. Government figures peg it at 1,200 people per square kilometre.
Yet human settlements are hard to access, subject largely to the ebb and flow of tides and the availability of ferry rides. The 45,000 sq km of inhabited area has only 280 km of paved roads and a mere 42 sq km is accessible by rail.