WHO CAN SAVE THE SUNDARBANS?
One of the largest mangrove forests in the world and a unique Tiger habitat, the Sundarbans in West Bengal have long been an important part of India’s ecological treasury. Situated at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta, the Sunderbans covers an area of around 10,000 sq km. Of this, 4,262 sq km is in India and the rest is in Bangladesh. There are over 60 varieties of Mangroves and Mangrove associates that can be found in India- the Sunderbans alone account for 50. The forest lies in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers across southern Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. The seasonally-flooded Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests lie inland from the mangrove forests on the coastal fringe.
The Sunderbans are known for the biodiversity they house- in acknowledgement of this, the region has been identified as a World Heritage Site by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. However, this great natural harbor is under serious threat. Being an ecological mine, it is sure to attract trouble. The threats to the mangrove eco-system are arising partly due to biotic pressure from the surrounding environment and, partly due to human induced or natural changes in the upper catchments. The major troubles plaguing the Sundarbans are- reduced flow of sweet water into Sundarban mangrove system, extension of non-forestry land use into mangrove forest and poaching of tigers, spotted deer, wild boars, marine turtles, horse shoe crabs etc.
Although forest officials deny that any indiscriminate felling of trees has been going on, informed sources in the Environment Department of the Government of West Bengal said that the substantial increase in the region's population had led to the exploitation of the Sunderbans. In 1951, the area's population was 11, 59,559; by 1991 it had risen to 32, 05,552. Today...