Sunday, Aug 06, 2023 10:15 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Aug 06, 2023 04:40 [IST]

Death of a Dream


The recent death of Sundarbans environmental crusader, Arjun Mondal due to unfortunate tiger attack during him fishing for crabs in the narrow tidal creek is indeed a very sad plight indeed; but this is also the crude reality! Nothing can however compensate the loss of a man in a family. In most cases these destitute families don't even get the slightest of economic  help. As a result, the people out there learn to gain self-sufficiency at the cost of their own lives and the tradition goes on making legends in the eyes of the sufferers! In the face of such unequal battles such men win by their death if not by their life.

Sundarbans, actually is not at all suitable for human settlements. The cyclonic regimes, regular inundation of salt water, heavy flash floods, dense forest, rich biodiversity and remote locations make it unsuitable and unattractive for proper economic development. But unfortunately following partition in 1947 and the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, significant number of human settlements has been both legally and illegally established in this highly sensitive region with disastrous ecological, economic and socio-political impacts.


Poor economic development in the region has been pushing marginalized local populations to be heavily dependent on the major and minor forest resources of the region, making this is a serious flash point of human-animal conflict. Reports of poisonous snake bites, tiger and salt water crocodile attacks have been frequent in this region due to helpless human victims venturing deeper inside restricted forest areas for collecting leaves, stems, branches, timber and honey as well as crab hunting and fishing in the narrow tidal creeks, some of the favourite tiger habitats making people venturing into this vulnerable spots to widespread attacks by tigers.


Unless alternative economic opportunities are established and pressure of local human settlements on the degrading mangrove forests are significantly reduced, such unfortunate sad incidents will continue to haunt us. There is urgent need of resettlement and economic rehabilitation of many vulnerable communities living on remote islands within this extremely fragile and sensitive ecosystem in the not so distant future. The current pressure of human settlements on the mangrove forest is beyond the carrying capacity of the local ecosystem; and unless serious efforts are made both humans and tigers in the region will be serious peril. The future of the entire Sundarbans region looks bleak and hopeless at this moment under the current circumstances.

Sad but this is the reality. The region is also subjected to illegal wildlife trade and trafficking, human trafficking, border area smuggling, serious security threats and vulnerable to attacks by pirates and illegal fishing in Indian waters by Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand fishing groups. Very poor monitoring and surveillance in the region is conducted. Both forest guards, coast guards and border security forces are poorly trained and ill equipped to handle the serious socio-economic situation of the region and the huge security threats posed by the region.

It is quite unfortunate that in spite of repeated warnings from environmentalists and ecologists around the world; very little has been done by both the government of India and Bangladesh, introducing the local population pressure on the adjacent Sundarbans in both countries. The compulsion of vote  politics, poor economic resources as well as lack of political will in resolving the crises of the Sundarbans from the perspective of humans and wildlife has been completely failed by  both governments. Very little initiatives have been taken on either side of the international border dividing the Sundarbans that lies two third in Bangladesh and one third in India in the past five decades. The increasing dependence of the local people under marginal forest resources for their daily sustenance has made the mangrove ecosystem extremely vulnerable to destruction and degradation. Furthermore, repeat it natural calamities induced by global climate change, has further impacted the region, both in terms of ecology and economy. It is very important that both government take initiatives in protecting the Sundarbans, on either side of the international border, dividing Indian Bangladesh, for a better future of both the people and the wildlife biodiversity of the region, one of the potential solution is to reduce the pressure on the forest by rehabilitation people from the vulnerable regions to reduce human animal conflict, and also to reduce the pressure on the dwindling forest resources.


Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi