Kolkata, Jul 20: Rampant practice of prawn seed catching along the rivers of Sundarban archipelago is not only damaging the marine ecosystem but also endangering the stability of embankments, says a new book.
"In an age marked by environmental consciousness and biodiversity conservation, prawn seed catching has become a matter of much concern among international agencies, policy makers and non-state organisations for its perceived contribution to environmental degradation of the coastal common and mangrove vegetation," writes professor Amites Mukhopadhyay in his book 'Living with Disasters'.
"When they pull nets along the banks in search of seeds, their nets catch many other marine lives in an attempt to collect the seeds. Many valuable marine lives which these women cannot identify as prawn seeds are killed in their larval stage," he says.
Frantic search for prawn seeds has put the valuable flora and fauna of the Sundarbans at stake. It is in the light of the increasing global concern about conserving biodiversity or portraying biodiversity as a global public good that women prawn catchers' livelihood appears as destructive of the ecosystem, says the book.
Prawn seed catching along the riverbanks appears problematic at another level also. The women prawn seed catchers are believed to have posed a serious threat to the sustenance of the Sundarbans embankments, says the Jadavpur University professor.
"Women in search of prawn seeds keep going up and down the river banks, thereby disturbing the siltation process at the bottom of embankments," says the author adding that embankments are fragile mudwalls constantly eroded by river currents.
At the same time, silts and mud carried by rivers tend to settle at the base of embankments which is critically important for its sustenance.
"However, women prawn catchers' continous movement along the shore is believed to unsettle the process of silt deposition, thereby weakening the embankment," he writes.
A Unesco World Heritage site, Sundarbans is a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal delta which is home to about 40 lakh people.