'Mangroves of the Sunderbans shielded Kolkata from Bulbul'

Kolkata: Environmentalists feel that the mangrove cover of the Sunderbans have acted as a shield against the cyclone, Bulbul, and the areas located in close proximity to the mangrove cover have witnessed lesser devastation.

"Some of the areas in and around Sagar Islands, where mangrove cover is minimum has been badly affected by the cyclone, while in the eastern part of these affected places, where there is mangrove cover, the effect of the cyclone has been found to be lesser," said Kalyan Rudra, chairman of West Bengal Pollution Control Board.

Rudra said places such as Gobardhanpur in G Plot, Baliara in Mousuni Islands and parts of Sagar, where the mangrove cover is almost nil, have seen large scale devastations due to the cyclone.

"The cyclone is a clear pointer that the importance of preservation mangrove is of utmost importance," Rudra said.

Since the British period, forest cover, including mangrove, has been destroyed indiscriminately for habitat in 54 islands of the Sunderbans.

"The embankment along the bank of the river has been protected with the ring of mangrove cover in Sunderbans. It is an established fact that mangrove cover gives protection to the coastline and minimise disasters due to cyclones and tsunami and this time no exception," said Punarbasu Chaudhuri, head of the Environmental Science department of Calcutta University, who specializes in mangrove ecology.

Gupinath Bhandari, associate professor of Civil Engineering department of Jadavpur University, who specialises in coastal zone management, voiced the same opinion.

He said: "Mangroves had played a similar role during Aila in 2009 and this time also it acted as a shield not only for the people living in Sunderbans but also Kolkata which is located in the peripheral area of Sunderbans that did not feel the devastating effect of the wind," he said.

The state Forest department has taken a serious note of the importance of preservation of mangrove cover and for the past few months the department has been planting mangrove trees such sundari, goran, geoya in Sunderbans.

"A fund of Rs 73.02 lakh has been allotted with an aim to increase the mangrove forest cover in Sunderbans," an official in the state Forest department said.

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