Sinking Sunderbans receive mangrove succour

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Bali Island (Sunderbans), Feb 11 (UNI) Sinking Sunderbans yesterday received a shot in the arm when British High Commissioner's Foreign Office launched a Climate Change initiative with a fund of 60,000 dollar in Mathurakhand village here as the first steps to stem the rot.

The project has been undertaken in association with Kolkata-based Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), which is building awareness about the threat of climate change in the Sunderbans and in doing so are trying to mitigate its effects by planting mangroves along the six km riverbank covering a area of half a square kilometer.

The villages covered are Mathurakhand and Amlamethi in the island here that face extreme threat from the rising sea levels.

The Sunderbans, a delta spread over 9,630 sq km situated in the estuaries of the Bay of Bengal, is the world's largest store of Mangrove forests and home to the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger.

But this World Heritage site as declared by the Ramsar Treaty is sinking 2.5 mm on an average every year due to erosion, deforestation and destruction of the mangrove forest.

The efforts undertaken by NEWS received a huge boost when British High Commissioner's office decided to join the project not only to see the first planned action being taken to save the mangrove delta, but also record the project in a documentary as an example for future efforts and be used to spread awareness.

Talking about the project British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg said, ''It is painful to reconcile to the fact that people in the Sunderbans, who contribute nothing to the global warming may have to face the brunt of any natural disaster in this region.'' ''I was shocked to learn that of the 3,500 km of shoreline in the Sunderbans, more than 2,000 km are today without the necessary mangrove cover. It is essential that an eco-system like Sunderbans has a defence system in place,'' he said.

Hence the British Government has used the money from its Global Opportunities Fund through its Foreign Office to promote this project like all other high growth and low carbon economy projects we patronize,'' Sir Stagg added.

Detailing about the project Professor Abhijit Mitra of the Marine Science Department of Calcutta University said, ''The funding apart from building awareness about the project, the money will help us take a three prong strategy to study and mitigate the problem of mangrove erosion and growing salinity in the water of Sunderbans that is also leading to erosion.'' The study includes proper study of the hydrological parameters, phytoplankton study and sequestering rate of carbon dioxide of certain mangrove species to identify the best species for future.

These apart NEWS has also adopted three villages here, namely Satyanaranpur, Amlamethi and Mathurakhand where there is a mangrove harvesting on with 14 women working in the project.

One of the NEWS spokesperson said, ''We have procured 80,000 seeds from the water and are preparing a nursery of 50,000 saplings which will be planted along the embankment of the villages.'' UNI BA PP NY SSC1400

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