West Bengal’s Sunderbans National Park is an ecological marvel. The world’s biggest mangrove ecosystem, it provides a livelihood to its 4 million plus inhabitants as well as the world’s biggest remaining Bengal Tiger reserve. Anudip has well established connections in the region and was especially active following the 2009 Cyclone Aila, which left over 100,000 people homeless.
Despite their timeless beauty the Sunderbans are often cited as one of the most susceptible regions for damage directly caused by climate change. In a 2007 report UNESCO compiled a case study of the Sunderbans that declared rising sea levels could contribute to destruction of over 75% of the Sunderbans mangroves by the end of the 21st century. There are already Sunderbans islands that no longer exist. If the UNESCO data is correct, we could see implications reaching much further than the loss of a beautiful ecosystem. One of the most crucial functions that the Sunderbans play is that of a protective barrier for the 15 million inhabitants (15,000,001 if you count me) of Kolkata. Without this barrier cyclones (such as Aila) and the resulting floods would be absolutely devastating to a majority of the urban area.
This past weekend I was privileged enough to take an excursion to the Sunderbans with the founders of Anudip Mr. Dipak Basu and Ms. Radha Basu along with my Anudip mentor, Ganesh Natesan. I can now say that I have had the pleasure of sleeping on the deck of an Indian fishing boat underneath the stars. The following are photos I took during the trip along with some brief descriptions.