Amphan’s impact on farming and livelihood in Sunderbans

Millions of people's homes were swept away and farmlands destroyed during cyclone Amphan in Sunderbans.
Betel (popularly used in paan) plantation is a major occupation in the Sundarbans. Pulak Bhakta is assessing the damage done to his plantation right after Amphan. The plantation is spread over two and a half bigha of land. According to Pulak, the total loss he has suffered is around INR 3 lakhs. Pulak already bears the burden of a loan which he had taken to set up his plantation. His future seems uncertain and bleak now. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen) Betel (popularly used in paan) plantation is a major occupation in the Sundarbans. Pulak Bhakta is assessing the damage done to his plantation right after Amphan. The plantation is spread over two and a half bigha of land. According to Pulak, the total loss he has suffered is around INR 3 lakhs. Pulak already bears the burden of a loan which he had taken to set up his plantation. His future seems uncertain and bleak now. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

The Amphan cyclone has disfigured the lives of people living in the Sundarbans. Houses have been torn apart, farms have been filled with brackish water making the land unsuitable for farming and betel leaves have been destroyed. People in the Sundarbans are in a life-threatening situation with makeshift shacks to live in and no means to earn a living.

Locals had expected to get through the corona virus pandemic by living off their savings and small incomes in their homeland but Amphan destroyed whatever little they had left. Families that were saving to start fishing or other businesses will have to start from square one all over again and this time it would be a feat considering the sheer appalling scenario in the Sundarbans at the moment.

Brackish water has entered farms and destroyed standing crops and rendered lands barren. Cyclone warnings helped farmers to only harvest 60 percent of their standing crops. All other crops were washed away. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

 Local farmers trying to drag out logs of wood of the trees that had been uprooted due to the cyclone and now lie strewn about in their farms. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

Aliha Bibli’s roof sheet has been completely destroyed. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

Gaur Hari Maity points at the Chaltamuniya Khal which has now turned into a river due to the rise in seawater in the recent past. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

Mangroves are ecologically very beneficial for the Sundarbans as they form natural barriers against storm surges and floods. Their deforestation has aggravated the destruction caused by Amphan and has left the Sundarbans more vulnerable to such storms and cyclones. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

Locals are trying to reconstruct some of the infrastructures but since many areas have been inundated by saltwater from the sea, reconstruction cannot be facilitated in those areas anytime soon. However, locals are holding on to hope and working together as a community to rebuild whatever they can in these tough times. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

Reconstruction work in Gobindapur Abadh has already begun. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

In the meanwhile, those whose houses have been completely destroyed are living in shacks. This family is living in a shack near the Karjankrik embankment as their home was destroyed by Amphan. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

Even in times of great distress, locals are helping each other cope with the situation and working together as a community to help themselves in any way they can. (Image: WaterAid/ Subhrajit Sen)

 

With homes being destroyed along with livelihood, people in the Sundarbans face a threat to their very lives. They have no source of income and their homes are in complete ruins. Locals are living in unsanitary shacks which is extremely dangerous especial in present times where the coronavirus has ailed many-even those living in safer conditions. Although families haven’t become completely despondent and are trying to rebuild their homes, one can only wonder how much they are struggling. Their affliction at the present moment is beyond what we can fathom as they face both the pandemic and the consequences of a devastating storm together. However, they are continuing to work together as a community; helping and supporting each other.

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