Sunderbans poster boy of climate change`s ill effects: Study

The Sunderbans, a world heritage site, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change.

Kolkata: The Sunderbans, a world heritage site, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change and government policies must take into account present and future climate impact to counter the scenario, says a study on the mangrove forests that straddle the Indian state of West Bengal as well as Bangladesh.

The study titled "Living with changing climate" has been carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based public interest research and advocacy organisation. It was released by West Bengal`s Sunderbans Affairs Minister Shyamal Mandal Wednesday.

"The Sunderbans is increasingly becoming vulnerable to climate change and it has now become a poster boy of the ill effects of climate change. It is high time the government policies are formulated giving much needed emphasis to the menace," said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director, CSE.

The report says the sea level in the area has almost doubled to 10 mm in the last decade while the sea surface temperature (SST) is rising at 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade which is a touch higher than the global average. There has been a 26 percent rise in the frequency of a cyclone hitting the area in the last 100 years.

"An increase in the salinity of land and its erosion have drastically lowered agriculture productivity of the area. Fishing, which is an important occupation here, has also been hit with the fish migrating to cooler waters," said Aditya Ghosh of CSE, elaborating on the ill effects of climate change.

As remedial measures, the study suggests building of durable and scientific embankments along with a comprehensive regional development plan and an effective disaster management system.

"Our disaster management is reactive. We wait for disasters to hit and then we go for rescue and rehabilitation. But the need is for a proactive system which can give sufficient prior information about a disaster so that we can prepare ourselves," Ghosh added.

The study also puts `development deficit` as one of the reasons for poor conditions of the inhabitants.

The Sunderbans is the largest single block of tidal mangrove forests in the world, covering 10,000 sq km, of which 4,000 sq km are in West Bengal and the rest in Bangladesh. It was declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1997.