Indian islanders leaving sinking Sundarbans
October 21st 2012
Families living on India’s Sundarbans islands, part of the world’s largest mangrove forest, are seeking husbands from the mainland for their daughters as they see no future for them at home. Some are also sending their children away to work, as climate change and a lack of local development make it harder to survive. The 10,000 sq km Sundarbans – a UNESCO World Heritage Site along the northeast coast of India and southwest coast of Bangladesh – are suffering worsening floods due to rising seas and subsiding land in the delta.
The absence of government policies to help a growing population adapt has left the 4 million inhabitants of the 48 islands on the Indian side of the Bay of Bengal struggling to make ends meet. In a recent survey by the Jayprakash Institute of Social Change, an NGO based in Kolkata, the nearest city to the region, 75 percent of families in the Indian Sundarbans said one or more family members had migrated to look for work. About a fifth said they had sent their children to work as migrant labourers.
Land is being lost in the Indian Sundarbans at a rapidly increasing rate. Between 2000 and 2008, it disappeared at a rate of 8 sq km per year, compared with 4 sq km per year between 1930 and the beginning of this century. Sea level rose by up to 12 mm each year at some observation stations between 2002 and 2009, far higher than the global average of 3 mm. The sea surface has also warmed by 0.5degrees Celsius per decade, much more than the global average of 0.06 degrees per decade. Land subsidence is a major contributing factor, but it only accounts for sea-level rise of up to 5 mm/year, experts say. ‘There is little doubt that the Sundarbans is showing clear signs of being a victim of climate change, and at a much faster rate than most other parts of the world,’ said Sugata Hazra, head of the department of oceanography at Jadavpur University, which has been monitoring the region for the past two decades. ‘The data clearly show a sharp upward trend in sea-level rise, sea-surface temperature increase, land loss and increase in extreme weather events,’ he added.
Read the full article: Reuters AlertNet
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