Government initiates steps to save Sunderbans from climate change
Kolkata: In its endeavour to build climate resilience in the Sunderbans through evidence-based research and policy-making, the State Environment department joined hands with the British Deputy High Commission Kolkata and the Newcastle University, United Kingdom, for the formal launch of 'Living Deltas Transdisciplinary Research Hub'.
The move comes in the backdrop of Sunderbans facing the impact of climate change that is posing a threat to the ecosystems of the islands. A key aim of the initiative is to tackle the problem of delta degradation.
Principal Secretary of state Environment department Prabhat Mishra pointed out the difficulty in getting reliable data on the Sunderbans and suggested some sort of consensus on institutionalising data collection regarding the islands on the part of the research team.
"The island is at risk not only due to climate change but also due to human interventions. So we will have to develop Sunderbans in a sustainable manner maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the community," he added.
Kalyan Rudra, chairman of West Bengal Pollution Control Board said that the Sunderbans has gradually lost its landmass. When the first Bengali atlas was made in 1780, Sunderbans extended up to 20,000 square km, in 1841 when another map was released it had reduced to a little over 17,500 metres whereas the 2019 satellite data showed that Sunderbans now is spread across 10,435 square km. "Sagar was a cluster of six islands in 1780 and now it has shrunk into one island," Rudra added.
Experts pointed out that with the Sunderban delta being tilted eastwards the rivers are being diverted towards the east, resulting in an increase of salinity of waters and with the sea located just beyond the delta its ecosystem also gets affected.
Souvanic Roy of Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology (IIEST), the co-investigator of the Research Hub suggested that the research team should work on improving the social infrastructure of the region which has a population of over 4.5 million.
The hub will be funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF). The collaborators include Jadavpur University and IIEST, Shibpur in the state.