Sunderbans - A climate adaptation report by World Wildlife Fund India

This climate adaptation report by World Wildlife Fund India captures its experience on climate change in the Sundarbans.

Sunderbans Beginning in 2005, WWF-India has conducted dozens of personal interviews to record how climate change impacts people's lives here and now. These perceptions demanded that scientific studies be carried out to ascertain the veracity of the claims.

The report draws heavily from the studies undertaken by the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University at the micro-level as well as across the Indian Sundarbans. These studies made it possible to design initiatives that enhance risk preparedness as well as adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities that ensure physical and livelihood security, and reduce sensitivity in case of exposure to high intensity weather events. Not all of these were successful, for example, attempts to raise mangrove plantation. The successful ones are briefly described in the last chapter of the report.

The eco-region that forms the Sundarbans is both unique, and uniquely fragile. Unique because it is one of the most extensive mangrove forests in the world, existing in a vast deltaic region where freshwater and seawater mix. Also unique, because the human population that exists on the fringes of the coastal forest, in land that has been slowly adapted to cultivation over the last two centuries, confront challenges from both land, air, and sea that few other local populations have to contend with. And further unique, because the flora of the Sundarbans, the mangrove, presents a natural buffer, a bulwark against coastal erosion and seawater ingress into one of the most densely populated regions of the world. Ironically, the Sundarbans' fragility stems from its uniqueness.

The report is an attempt to highlight that fragility in the context of a fairly recent global phenomenon – human induced climate change. The delicate balance that has for many centuries existed in the Sundarbans between land, air, and sea, is today under threat, and indeed, in certain areas, the effects have been disastrous. The report attempts to present a short ecological history of the Indian Sundarbans, one covering only two decades, to show how climate change is, within even this smallest of timeframes in ecological terms, causing exaggerated and sometimes irreversible damage.

It is an attempt to explain how the Sundarbans is changing, both through the voices of the people who live there, and the scientists who are working there. And it is also a call for urgent action to all, to address the very issue of survival of the landscape we call the Sundarbans, the animals and people who live within it, and the mangroves which sweep at present, only intermittently broken, from the southern part of West Bengal to Bangladesh. 

This report also explains the nature of the activities of WWF in the area in the field of applied research, field implementation and advocacy/ communication, and their effectiveness. This is a work-in-progress and the next steps involve undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of suggested action versus business as usual, engage in dialogue with key decision makers on the vision 2050 being prepared for the Sunderbans, and hold wider consultations with the population of the Sundarbans on their vision of the future. 

The report can be downloaded at the WWF India website here

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