An essential ecosystem: The Sunderbans

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.

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Typical Sunderbans home surrounded by rice paddies

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Sunderbans Fishing boat

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A maze of rivers lined by Mangroves overhanging on the banks

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Fisherman and Fisherfamily

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Testing the depth to make sure we don’t run aground

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The ferry: essential for any long distance travel in the Sunderbans

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Sailing past the mangroves

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Over the canopy from a tiger watch tower (nope, didn’t see one)

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Signs of the locals dealing with the rising waters were everywhere – in this case building embankments and trying to reinforce them with sandbags and bamboo. The rising tides have already claimed most of their efforts.

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Sunset from the boat

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Sunrise from the boat

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6 thoughts on “An essential ecosystem: The Sunderbans

  1. Hi Adam;

    I am a friend of your Mom’s and she passed on this blog. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It is a wonderful thing to see how big the world is and to immerse yourself in cultures that are so very different from America. I am very happy for you to have this amazing experience and I admire your courage to be outside the comforts we were raised with!

    Love the photos! Kathie Ketcham

  2. Beautiful, beautiful, Adam. Not only are you a talented writer, but photographer as well.
    I love you and think of you every day!
    Mom

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