The impacts of cyclone Amphan has hit hard on the entire Sundarbans village’s of India. There is one particular zone called Gosaba at the 24 Parganas inside Sundarbans where the last inhabited area ends and the dense jungle zone starts.
(Elsie Gabriel is Mentor Climate Reality Project , Environment and Climate Change writer)
This district is suffering with not only Covid 19, flooded rice fields, broken houses and broken embankments, animal and human conflict, hunger and poverty but every effect possible from climate change! Although Kolkata and some parts of West Bengal were saved, the Sundarbans paid a huge price for this, even though it is the largest mangrove Delta zone in the world!
Speaking to a native of Gosaba in Sundarbans Cyclone hit area, Anil Mistry of Bali Nature wildlife conservation, who is also part of WPSI, elaborates, “Sundarbans is home to the majestic Tiger among other wildlife animals, it boasts of a wide variety of birds and is excellent for both birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. But during the Covid Isolation days we lost few inhabitants to the Wild tigers. We work very hard to sensitize the villager’s but due to poverty they still risk their lives to lurk around the
mangroves which offer much immediate value to human beings like honey, wax, firewood and the sour fruit of kewra trees. No month seems to pass without news about someone being killed by a tiger, a snake or a crocodile.”
Thousands of people in Sundarbans particularly in the ecologically fragile region, have reinforced the urgent need to build resilience into delta communities, a section of which has already lost their livelihoods to the COVID-19 related lockdown.
Fueled by unusually warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, cyclone Amphan became one of the strongest cyclones in the recorded history of the north Indian Ocean.
With rapidly rising temperatures, frequency and magnitude of disasters such as cyclone Amphan are likely to increase with warmer sea surface temperatures, and communities are also increasingly going to brace up for a range of other climate impacts due to increased year-to-year variability and long term climate changes.
“This calls for urgent attention to the necessary efforts needed to help decision-makers and vulnerable communities to better anticipate and manage climate risks,” continues Anil, ” At this time we can’t even think of social distancing. Survival comes first.
The coronvirus is complicating relief work. During the cyclone, villagers gathered in storm shelters, which authorities fear could spread the virus. The farmers have lost their crops due to salt water too.”
The Sundarbans comprise a cluster of small low-lying islands in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna River delta in eastern India. It is the largest continuous mangrove forest in the world.Communities constantly live on the mercy of climate change, on the brink with tiger and crocodile sudden attacks and soil erosion.
Climate change in the Sundarbans is a pressing issue.
Low-lying coastal Islands are vulnerable to sea level rise and the increased occurrence of intense, extreme weather conditions such as the cyclones make the underpreviled community helpless. Migration is not always on their mind. They crave for a sense of belonging.
While discussing with Anil Mistry further,one could gather that this will also have an adverse effect on food security as the communities want to stay on the island native place. Although the effects of climate change are highly variable these Islands could lose a good percentage of rice and maize yields too. “Storage of granaries for these disasterous days. Provisions of good seeds, small organic farming , fresh water fish breeding and domestic animal breeding could help assist people during the trying times when paddy fields, salt pans are all washed away. People go to hunt due to hunger and poverty.”
Climate Change and the way forward for Sundarbans
- The need to prepare for concrete long-term adaptation, which could be as novel as changing sowing newer crops due to seasonal variations, introducing different varieties and species.
- Practicing novel water supply and irrigation systems.
- Better commuting system between Kolkata and the islands.
- These floods not only lead to the erosion of tilled land, but also have a negative impact on other income opportunities and often disrupt the livelihood patterns of whole families. More shelters and concrete bunds/ embankments should be on the government agenda.
- The government is focusing on increasing agriculture production, productivity, water management techniques, surface water infrastructure, irrigation, fisheries, and promoting poultry and dairy development. But this should be done with public consultation, training and a special team force.
- Although full government assistance has been filled out to the villages, the system should not only place emphasis on capacity building and disaster management but also institutional and infrastructure strengthening, development of research, renewable energy and low carbon technologies in order to create an inclusive and truly comprehensive mitigation scheme.
While technical infrastructure assistance is still awaited, Anil Mistry is an excellent pragmatic green crusader and a bridge between the community and the government, for now!