Are we destroying Our 'Sundar' (beautiful) 'Ban' (forest)? Before searching for the answer of this pertinent question, we should find out the invaluable contribution of the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans is not only the home of our pride, the Royal Bengal Tiger and varieties of other wild animals, it is also a home of more than three million human beings. We must appreciate the contributions of this forest towards not only the coastal people but also the people of whole West Bengal and also Bangladesh. We know that The Sundarbans is the World's largest mangrove zone, covering approximately 10,000 sq km area in the Gangetic Delta. About 48% area is located in India in the state of West Bengal and the rest in our neighboring country, Bangladesh.
Contributions of Sundarbans towards mankind
The Sundarbans wetlands act as a natural shield to protect us from storms and cyclones. Unfortunately, with the diversion of Ganges water in 1975, irrigation has markedly increased. With the increase of irrigation facilities, agriculture has also increased. Consequently siltation has increased and due to obstruction in the flow of the Ganges, salinity has also increased. Increase in both siltation and salinity has been threatening the entire Sundarbans' ecosystems. . For the inhabitants here, life is extremely dangerous. The place is under threat from tidal floods, coastal cyclones and other natural and ecological calamities.
As a consequence of construction of dams, irrigation, etc. upstream, the flow of total annual discharge of clean water is increased for which mangrove deforestation is going on. This is contributing to soil erosion, increase in salinity of coastal soil, decline in fisheries, etc. Moreover, the destruction of the Sundarbans will also expose a vast region of our country to frequent natural disasters like cyclone, tidal surges, etc. It is also causing immense damage to the marine resources of the Bay of Bengal. As a part of my official duty during my service in the Sundarban Development Board under the Govt. of West Bengal, I frequently had to visit the Indian Sundarbans. I have seen the life of the inhabitants of the Sundarbans very closely and became eye witness of their sufferings. They suffer from extreme poverty, illiteracy, lack of general awareness, inappropriate infrastructure facilities and poor healthcare facilities, etc. The contribution of the Sundarbans towards the life of the coastal people and the wild animals is invaluable. The wetlands of this region act as a natural shield to protect us from storms and cyclones. Man made hazards like deforestation, poaching, etc. are destructing this beautiful forest.
Saving Sundarbans is a challenge
The Sundarbans is a challenge for those who use its resources as well as those working to save it. Interestingly, the mangroves protect the tiger, in return, the tiger, because of its man- eating tendencies, indirectly protects the forest to some extent. WWF-India has been working here for many years in the field of education and awareness and its Tiger Conservation program has been providing support to the tiger reserve that includes construction of camps, communication and transport equipment and intelligence network for curbing poaching. More emphasis is needed on some measures to save the Sundarbans which cannot be successful without the active participation of the Government, NGO, etc. like creating awareness among the people of the area about the consequences of man made hazards like deforestation, encouraging mangrove plantation which will increase the survival of the Sundarbans, the local communities may be encouraged to take up alternative ways of income generation so that the local people need not depend on the mangrove forest resources, the local communities may be included as participants of the Eco-tourism. Further, from now onward we should follow the caution given by the experts to save the Sundarbans for saving the mankind. Active participation of local communities is needed in conservation activities to save the Sundarbans.
We all know that Sundarbans forest range with its International presence has the importance because it is the shelter for the wild life and it is our expressed duty to conserve this great forest range. The growing demand of population for the habitat, the changing climate, the constant wild weather sometimes destroy the ecological balance of the forest. West Bengal has become thickly populated state and the need for land to further develop for the human being needs is increasing but successive governments always tried to encroach this forest area for the public purpose due to heavy demand for the people habitat. This is the time for the natural lovers, wild life conserving activists and NGO's to prevail on the government not to pressure for forest land to domestic use. That way this great forest can be saved, otherwise, Sundarbans would be history in future.
Despite taking different measures to protect the bio-diversity, Sundarban is being slowly destroyed due to population explosion and, ironically, due to onslaught of industry. In this connection, I would like to mention about the Sundarban area located in Bangladesh. Incidentally almost 2/3rd of total Sundarban is in Bangladesh. Presently, agitation is going on in Bangladesh against the proposed Rampal thermal power plant. The location of the proposed power plant, 14 km. from the Sundarban, violates one of the basic pre-conditions, which states that such a project must be outside a 25 km. radius from the outer periphery of an ecologically sensitive area.
Concluding my response, I thank Mr. Chatterjee for writing a very informative article, which would immensely help in raising the consciousness among common people to protect this unique Mangrove forest of the world.