The Sunderbans is known as the home for only tigers living in mangroves. Recently, A group of scientists from four countries have categorised Sunderban under ‘Endangered Ecosystem’.
However, there is a positive aspect too. A long period of unconstrained human behaviour and activities ultimately led to downfall and degradation of World’s largest mangrove system. But now it is again showing positive signs of stabilization and hopes are there that it will become resilient to climate change.
“The Sunderbans, which has seen much degradation in the past, has been categorized as an endangered ecosystem according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s The Red List of Ecosystems. Felling of trees for human settlement over the past few centuries which has degraded the mangrove to a large extent and the declining fish population were the two primary reasons to tag the delta as an endangered one. Ongoing threats, including climate change and reduced freshwater supply may further impact the delta,” said Punyasloke Bhadury, who heads the Centre for Climate and Environmental Studies at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.
However, not only Bengal’s Sunderbans but there are so many sites in the world which have been listed under the Endangered category. The list includes Giant Kelp Forest in Alaska, the tidal flats of Yellow Sea in east Asia, Lake Burullus in Egypt, The Gnarled Mossy Cloud Forest in Australia and Gonakier forest in Senega along with The Aral Sea which has dried up.
Michael Sievers, a scientist with the School of Environment and Science at Griffith University in Australia and the corresponding author of the research paper said, “However, mangrove extent has since stabilised, tiger numbers are slowly recovering and analysis of mangrove condition highlights that only a small proportion of the forest is classified as degraded. We are cautiously optimistic about the future of the Indian Sundarbans.”
The research’s outcomes was published in latest issue of Biological Conservation– a journal of the Elsevier group.The research includes researchers and scientists from various institutes including Oxford University and Griffith University in four countries – India, UK, Australia and Singapore.
Moreover, the top forest officer has informed that many scientists have kept track on the last five decades and included the effects of Cyclone Aila in 2009 and Cyclone Bulbul in November 2019. He said that the effects caused by Cyclone Amphan are missing.Cyclone Amphan had devastated almost one third of mangrove forest.
“We are planting around 50 million saplings of mangrove species in the Sunderbans to cope with the loss which the delta has suffered during Cyclone Amphan. The tiger population has increased from 88 to 96 in the past one year. A series of measures such as generating jobs through MGNREGA are being taken for the villagers,” said VK Yadav, chief wildlife warden of West Bengal.
The Sunderbans in West Bengal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sunderbans are spread over 10,200 Sq km. 4,200 sq km of which lies in West Bengal, India and 6,000 sq km is in Bangladesh.