I have been fascinated by the Sunderbans since I read Amitav Ghosh's “The Hungry Tide”. Imagine being immersed in a furious silence only to be interrupted by the boat's raucous sound. Imagine being intimate, literally absorbing all its essence with a diverse range of flora and fauna. Imagine that there are 100 Bengal tigers in the land of somebody in jeopardy, but still the undisputed Kings of the mangrove territory are declining.
Ernest Hemingway said that “The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.”
Sunderban, the Ganges delta in the south 24 paraganas of India's West Bengal state, is one of the world's natural marvels. Mangrove vegetation's structural intricacies generate unique ecosystems that provide biological niches for a diverse range of creatures. Most commercial fishes and crustaceans rely on mangroves for spawning, feeding, and nursery grounds, and many of the people rely on these for their livelihood. Sadly, the picture of this natural beauty today is not what it is used to be.
WHAT PROMPTED US?
The delta is steadily vanishing into the Bay of Bengal due to pollution and global warming. As a result, the delta's existence, as well as its habitats, are in grave risk. Overpopulation with few alternative livelihood opportunities poses a serious threat to these mangrove forest. Mangroves are robust to the damage caused by extreme weather events like cyclones, but physical damages caused by the growing frequency and intensity of extreme events like cyclone “Amphan” impairs their ability to recover. Climate Change forecast that extreme weather would overwhelm 75% of Sunderban along with an increase of 45cm rise in sea level. Researchers believe that increased wave action due to storm (natural) and sediment reduction owing to upstream dams (human-induced) are the two major drivers of permanent land loss to water in the Sundarbans.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
MUKTI, in collaboration with the West Bengal government, has made numerous initiatives to raise public awareness about this issue. As part of their Go Green Project, MUKTI also promotes large-scale plantation operations each year.
The project intends to restore the forest and thereby safeguard the Sunderban World Heritage Site. MUKTI has taken several steps to assist and encourage people in the Sunderban and across India to plant more trees. MUKTI donates and participates actively in plantation every year.
SOME OF THE INITIATIVES TAKEN BY MUKTI TO SAVE SUNDERBAN:
1. Attempts of Mukti to Restore the Mangrove Forest
Mukti oversaw the Mangrove Sapling Plantation Program until last week. In first phase, 400 saplings were planted in the village of Purba Sridharpur, nurtured by women workers who are part of the “Food for Work” project. Mukti has planted approximately 1200 saplings alongside the river "Mony" in the second phase. This workshop was attended by 15 ladies from the model village of Purba Sridharpur. At the period of low tide, the saplings were carried on a boat. Mukti is grateful to "AID," the partner involved with the restore to its past days. Thus, they are not only aiding nature, but also humanity that depends on its survival. Mukti will plant additional mangrove plants in the coming days.
2. Mukti Planned to Plant 30,000-45,000 Mangrove saplings at Bhubaneswari
MUKTI began planting high grade mangrove saplings for 30,000-45,000 mangroves on Bhubaneswari Island. "AID," has been helping Mukti to plant mangroves in Sunderban to preserve the ecology. The six kinds of high-quality mangrove sapling plantings include Sundori, Goran, Dhundhul, Golpata, Algach, Kankra and Bakra. The plantation programme was launched on 26 January, 2021 by 15 members of the MCDF. They're working on a project called "Food for Work."
3. Mukti Staffs Visited Mangrove Project Site at Basanti Block
Mukti formed an expert team to examine the situation of Mangrove Nursery and Planting in Basanti Block. The 40,000 Mangrove trees on the banks of Purba Sridharpur river and Basanti block were planted after huge damage caused by Amphan. On 20 November, the five-member team from Mukti visited Basanti Block. They toured mangroves, the Charane Khali nursery under Uttar Mokamberiya Gram Panchayat and the Purandar plantation region along the Matla bank. The area of the plantation is 1 kilometer long. They evaluated the process of conservation and growth of trees during the field survey, obtained quadrat datain terms of frequency, density and abundance for determining the quantitative structure of mangroves. The acquired data were utilized to determine certain ecological factors to understand the population structure and pattern of distribution of mangroves in those places. They were satisfied with the result after their visit. The efforts of the volunteers from Mukti Basanti were recognised and supported by the expert team. These techniques and experiences will in future be followed during planting work for Mangroves.
4. Mangrove Plantation Preparation Work at Purba Sridharpur
For a mangrove plantation near Purba Sridharpur, Mukti prepared 10-12 Hectare river bed next to the River Thakurain. Mukti aims to plant Sunderban's ten lacquered mangrove saplings. 16 women were engaged in canal cutting from Purba Sridharpur. The river itself will be filled with drains as high and low tides always pass through in these areas. The mangroves will be planted after three to four days. These females receive a fee of Rs 2,000 and a dry ration from Mukti under the project 'Food for Work.' The Mangrove afforestation supports "AID," one of the respectable donors of Mukti.
5. MUKTI decorated Nilratan’s front yard with varieties flowers and fruits
MUKTI conducted an investigation, and as a result undertook to set up fruit and flower plantations on the roadside in front of the buildings. It has been found that there was no greenery available in an open space in front of Nilratan's house. From MUKTI to Nilratan a few floral and fruit saplings were given. He ensured that the plants were well looked after and healthy. The garden was slowly filled with fruit and flowers, bringing a lot of change to the immediate environment of Nilratan. The development was not just beautiful and cosmopolitan, it was also friendly to the environment; a source of fruit and flowers for the family and neighbors. Now, his neighbors, together with MUKTI, are also inspired to embellish and develop their environment. This in turn improves their financial, social and environmental characteristics.
Mother Nature is trying to give us a wake-up call in the language of the cyclones and extinctions telling us to be more responsible towards her, to evolve and come up with a new way of sharing the planet. This is the real truth that we have been avoiding; running away from our responsibilities towards nature.
“The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”
-John Paul II
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