Sunderbans is one of the largest river deltas in the world. Spread across areas of West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh, it is the place where the River Ganges meets the Indian Ocean. In 1997, it became a UNESCO world heritage site. Though the Indian and Bangladeshi portions constitute the same ecotope, they are separately listed in the UNESCO world heritage list as the Sundarbans National Park, and the Sunderbans respectively.
The Sundarbans is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The area is known for the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), as well as numerous fauna including species of birds, spotted deer, crocodiles, and snakes.
But the place displays a sad face because of huge impact of climate change and global warming. The group of islands in the Sundarbans has been diminishing fast as they have sunk into the sea due to rising temperature. According to an international conference on climate change the rate of ice melting in the Himalayas has a direct impact on the water levels of the Bay of Bengal and the entire Sundarban region is vulnerable to this climate change crisis.
In the backdrop of this alarming climate crisis, the governments of India and Bangladesh have initiated a joint venture to protect the Sunderbans ecosystem.
According to Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, “The India-Bangladesh Sunderbans Ecosystem Forum will be launched in September this year,”. The forum, which will include non-governmental organisations and civil society of both the countries, will coordinate efforts in afforestation, management of mangroves and conservation of the tiger.
And, here are some numbers mentioned by the Minister, which we need to keep track of: Union Cabinet has approved the Rs 1156 crore Integrated Coastal Zone Management project, of which Rs. 300 crore will be spent in West Bengal, most of it on the Sunderbans. The 13th Finance Commission has sanctioned a grant of Rs. 450 crore for strengthening embankments at critical areas in the Sunderbans. That is a lot of money and hopefully the government is accountable for its proper usage.