For the people living in the world’s largest mangrove islands, the Sundarbans, the delicate balance between man and nature is constantly shifting. In fact, the situation on the ground is nothing short of an ecological disaster.
Approximately 6000 families have been rendered homeless in the last 25 years with four islands sinking in the sea. There are grave predications that the next two islands to be hit will be Ghoramora and Mousuni. Sagar, the biggest island in the Sundarbans has already lost 30 km2. Projections for 2020 are that another 15 per cent of the region’s habitable area may be engulfed by the surging sea waters.
The rising sea level, continuous and rapid erosion of the coastline that has engulfed several islands has forced the inhabitants of the area to relocate further inland in this already fragile area. The visibly alarming effects of global warming over the last 20 years are apparent in the average rate of rise of the sea level at 3.14 milimeters a year which is higher that the global average of 2 mm per year.
The breaching of embankments due to the surging sea water is not an uncommon occurrence in Mousuni. This is not to undermine the fact that the devastation it brings in its wake makes the situation grim.
Partial damage of 1.3 km and complete damage of 2.5 km of the embankment during 20-21 August 2013 was caused by the spring tide. The high tide ranged between 5.52 and 5.90 meters, which is normal. A vast stretch of agricultural land, prepared for the kharif paddy, was flooded with brackish water from Bartala River, that flows on the western side of the island (See Map).
Agricultural fields of eight participating farmers were affected by this event. Sk. Jiyad of Indra Palli, Baliara lost his Hamilton seed bed. Bundles of seedlings kept in the field for transplantation, scheduled for the next day, have been washed away. The frustration among the farmers has led them to decide not to cultivate this year. They are, instead, demanding the construction of a strong embankment so that their initiatives are not washed away by such events.
WWF-India, in collaboration with the West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences (WBUAFS), is working in the Kusumtala and Baliara mouzas of Mousuni Island with the objective of enhancing the physical and livelihood security of the local population.
Four types of interventions are being undertaken in the two mouzas, which are:
Awareness campaign on climate variability and need to adapt to climate change.
This was carried out prior to the onset of the monsoons. Campaign activity is not scheduled during kharif paddy cultivation and monsoon.
Climate adaptive agriculture (salt-tolerant paddy and salinity shock resistant fish).
This is being undertaken to enhance livelihood security of the community. Twenty-six farmers from the two mouzas are participating in salt-tolerant paddy cultivation on the island.