Effort To Preserve Sunderbans Mangrove

  • On 19th August, 2019, Discovery India and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-India partnered with the West Bengal government and local communities in the Sundarbans in a bid to help save the world’s only mangrove tiger habitat.

Vision

  • WWF India and Discovery India are working with government agencies, civil society partners and scientific institutions to incorporate climate resilience into development planning, thereby helping secure livelihoods, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • The preservation effort aims to create climate-smart villages in the Sundarbans area.

Initiatives under the Project

  • Use of Technology in Dealing with Climate Change: It will make use technology to solve several of the issues faced in the region. This includes building datasets on impacts of climate change on the estuarine ecosystem.
  • Establishing Ecological Observations: Two Sundarbans Ecological Observatories will be set up, each featuring data loggers, monitoring buoys and an onsite laborator, in partnership with the West Bengal Forest Directorate and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata.
  • Enhancing Farmland Productivity: It also focuses on enhancing farmland productivity through low-cost measures and adjusting crop calendars to deal with climate change.
  • Securing Tiger Habitat: It will also include work towards securing habitats for tigers and prey species, under the Project Conserving Acres for Tigers (CAT), aimed at building healthy habitats for Tigers.

Sunderbans Mangrove Forest

  • It is the world’s largest mangrove spreading at the mouth of delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is home to hundreds of species including the Bengal tiger, the Ganges dolphin, and river terrapin, estuarine crocodile, water monitor lizard and olive ridley turtle.
  • The Sundarbans was inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 because of its wildlife and unique ecosystem.

Project CAT

  • The project was launched in 2016 by Discovery in partnership with World Wildlife Fund to fund and conserve nearly 1 million acres of protected land across India and Bhutan to help protect wild tigers.
  • It aims to double the number of tigers in the wild globally by 2022.

Climate Smart Village (CSV)

  • CSV is a part of a project led by the CGIAR Research Program (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
  • CSV are sites where researchers from national and international organisations, farmer’s cooperatives, local government leaders, private sector organisations and key policy planners come together to identify which climate-smart agriculture (CSA) interventions are most appropriate to tackle the climate and agriculture challenges in the village.
  • The idea is to incorporate climate-smart agriculture into village development plans, with the help of local knowledge and expertise and assisted by local institutions.

Significance of the Initiative

  • Better Community Development: The partnership between WWF India and Discovery India is significant as it brings together different institutions for the benefit of communities and wildlife of Sundarbans by providing scientific inputs for proper management and preservation.
  • Conserving Biodiversity: It will help to develop a climate resilient Sundarbans that supports biodiversity, ecosystems services and sustainable development.
  • Reducing Human-Animal Conflict: It will help to reduce instances of human-wildlife conflict, thus, helping in better conservation of wildlife thriving in the forest.

Issues in Sunderbans Forest

  • Rising Sea Level: Situated in the low coastal zone, the Sundarbans are more vulnerable to the consequences of the changing climatic conditions such as floods, cyclones, relative sea-level rise, and coastline erosion. Rising sea levels are swallowing the forest, and increasing water salinity is damaging plant and marine life with worse effect on larger animals like Bengal Tigers and crocodiles.
  • Increasing Poaching and other Illegal Activities: Under the strain of land loss, poverty, limited livelihood options and unavailability of adequate infrastructure, communities living in the area are encroaching on the animal’s habitat, tearing down trees to make space for farmland poaching activities. This biotic pressure and unsustainable exploitation of forest resources causes degradation of the natural habitat, which results in loss of biodiversity.
  • Human-Wildlife Conflict: The human population in the Sundarbans is very much dependent on biodiversity resources for their subsistence. They are even more prone to biotic hazards such as snakebites and tiger attacks, due to their proximity to the forests. On the other hand, incidents of wildlife straying into the villages are also increasing resulting in death of endangered species.
  • Increasing Pollution: A variety of anthropogenic activity, including intensive boating and fishing, dredging, tourism, port activities, operation of mechanized boats, excavation of sand from the riverbed and the establishment of power plants has led to increase in water pollution, impacting badly the entire mangrove ecosystem.

Way Forward

  • Sundarbans are highly productive mangrove wetland ecosystems, contributing several social, financial and environmental benefits. While it supports a sizeable population of wild tigers and other wildlife, it is also an ecologically fragile and climatically vulnerable region that is home to over 4.5 million people.
  • Inspite of several laws, policies and management plans, clear signs of degradation are showing up in the forest.
  • Proper implementation of the proposed resilient strategies i.e. incorporate all stakeholders to protect the forest, awareness programs, reduced forest dependency of local people, access to clean and sustainable energy, strengthen monitoring, effective human wildlife conflict management, ecological restoration, implementation of legal bindings, disaster management and adequate research and planning can be helpful for sustainable management of Sundarbans and its people.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, 19th August, 2019