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‘How Healthy are the Children of the Indian Sundarbans?’ : The Film Documents Plight of Children Living in Climate Hit Islands of Sunderbans

The movie was screened at the Global Health Research Symposium held in Vancouver.

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Sunderbans, Wikimedia

November 24, 2016: Recently a short documentary film on the challenges faced by the children living in the Sunderban’s  climate hit islands was screened at an international symposium. The film is made jointly by Future Health Systems (FHS) and Health Management Research (IIHMR) University.

The film was titled ‘How Healthy are the Children of the Indian Sundarbans?’ The 27 minutes film was selected with three other films to be screened last week at the Global Health Research Symposium held in Vancouver.

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According to PTI, the film provides an illuminating audio-visual proof of the troubles and predicaments of these isolated communities, living in the UNESCO World Heritage site, that are defenseless to the harsh climate change.

Professor at Future Health Systems (FHS), Barun Kanjilal said, “It was a challenge to present the scientific evidence from our study report in an aesthetically attractive manner and a taut storyline to retain audience’s attention.”

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The film focuses on the healthcare demands of the communities living in the Sunderban’s Islands. The film depicts the complex interplay of responsibilities of all the health officials and providers who work against the backdrop of a region which is prone to climate shocks.

Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53

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Revamping Human Settlements to Ease the Plight of Sunderbans’ ‘Tiger Widows’

The 'tiger widows' are often blamed for the deaths of their husbands by the community, says a study Ecopsychosocial Aspects of Human-Tiger Conflict

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Tiger Widows of Sunderbans
Sunderbans Tiger reserve india David Raju. Wikimedia
  • Kerala-based charity is working in human settlements along the Sundarbans to ease the plight of the ‘tiger widows’ 
  • There are several thousand widows living in the islands whose husbands were killed by Tiger
  • 90 per cent of the widows have been accused of causing their husband’s death by their family in-laws

July 17, 2017: Tragedy struck this widow twice in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. First, she watched her husband die of snakebite. Then, her young son was mauled to death by a Royal Bengal tiger.This is the heart-rending tale of 60-year-old Panchami Naya of Durgapur—a remote island located in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal—who was living a life of abject penury.

Like her, a majority of the 4.5 million people of the region eke out a living daily in the traditional way—fishing, hunting for crabs, collecting of honey and subsistence farming along the fringes of the Sundarbans—a Unesco World Heritage site that is home to one of the largest populations of the protected Royal Bengal tiger.Although it is illegal, fishermen go into the wildlife protected areas for hunting. Tigers and crocodiles often attack them. According a World Bank report, the Sundarbans, spread over 10,000 sq km of land and water, more than half of it in India, has a high population density of about 1,000 people per sq km.

A Kerala-based charity, Believers Church, is working in human settlements along the Sundarbans to ease the plight of the ‘tiger widows’ by equipping them with income-generating skills. It also helps them overcome the trauma of losing their partners, mostly the breadwinners.

At present, social workers are deployed in 33 islands of South 24 Parganas to provide service to more than 700 widows to enable them to become self-reliant. In June 2015, two workers met Panchami, five years after the death of her son Mangal Naya, 20, and found her in distress, facing social ostracisation, too.” There are several thousand widows living in the islands and we have identified 194 of them who are in dire need of food and shelter. Others may need help and care from time to time,” said Believers Church’s Metropolitan Bishop K.P. Yohannan.

Ferries are the only mode of transport to reach the islands and this is risky as it depends on the waves of the Bay of Bengal. The places most populated with widows include Moipit, Gangasagar, Pathorpratima and Gosaba, a gateway to the Sundarbans, some 200 km from West Bengal’s capital Kolkata.In Moipit, there are 250 widows whose husbands were largely killed by tigers.

ALSO READ: Sunderbans- Hindu devotees worship Muslim goddess to protect them from Tigers 

Apart from South 24 Parganas, the widow care service, launched in 2011, has also been provided in North 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Murshidabad, Bardhaman, Malda and Purulia districts. “We have identified 8,700 widows in West Bengal, out of them 5,700 are living on the islands. On a daily basis, we assist 2,323 in the state, 1,516 of whom are settled on islands,” Yohannan added.

Like Panchami Naya, the charity is taking care of 65-year-old widow Swarnamayee Ghosh of Moipit island. Fourteen years ago her husband died in tiger attack while collecting firewood.Similar is the horrific tale of Dipti Das, 56, also from Moipit, whose husband died of a tiger attack 20 years ago.

The ‘tiger widows’ are often blamed for the deaths of their husbands by the community, says a study Ecopsychosocial Aspects of Human-Tiger Conflict: An Ethnographic Study of Tiger Widows of Sundarbans Delta, India, published by the journal Environmental Health Insights last year. It says 90 per cent of the widows have been accused of causing their husband’s death by their family in-laws, especially by the mothers-in-law, while being branded as “swami-khego” or husband-eater. (IANS)

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Thermal Power Plant Posits Ecosystem in Sunderbans At Stake

The pollution from coal ash, wasted water, increased shipping and effect of industrial development will destroy one of the few remaining ecologically balanced places of the world - "Sunderbans"

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Sunderbans
Tourist boats in the lndian part of the Sunderbans Delta (West Bengal). Wikimedia
  • A 1,320 MW thermal power plant is going to affect the wildlife and aquatic life of Sunderbans
  • It is a joint venture between India and Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh Government claims there would be inconsiderable effect of the Thermal Plant in Sunderbans

June 26, 2017: The environment around is already deteriorating and nature can always take revenge for our selfishness. The beautiful Sunderbans mangrove forests are the barriers of deadly cyclones of Bay of Bengal. But the plan of 1,320 MW thermal plant just 14 km away from South Bangladesh, is a big threat to this UNESCO heritage site. It consists of rich bird conservation areas and wildlife sanctuaries. As per the scientists, this thermal power plant is going to affect the wildlife and aquatic life of the region.

The beautiful Sunderbans forest is deteriorating now with Thermal Plant in the settings. Click To Tweet

Problems of ‘The Fearsome Sunderban’

A large crocodile basks on the mud on the banks of River matla at Sunderban, West Bengal, India. Wikimedia

It is a joint venture between India and Bangladesh, but this joint venture seems to cost lives and damage the already deteriorated environment. The pollution from coal ash, from wastewater, increased shipping and effect of industrial development will destroy one of the few remaining ecologically balanced places of the world.

Water wastage is another problem. Who doesn’t know about the effects of climate change in the world? It is impossible to solve such problem if we keep wasting water the way we are doing in the name of “development”.

But the Bangladesh Government is adamant claiming that there would be hardly any effect on Sunderbans. Being one of the most climate vulnerable countries, it should fear the wrath of nature and side with eco-friendly and renewable resources of energy. Entire world today is witnessing the effects of non-renewable energy sources like thermal power plants. The added cause of worry is that following this decision, many private players have also come in the picture. In a recent case, just 12 km from Sunderbans, a private company has started their project of 565 MW thermal power plant. Be it India or Bangladesh, effects of such activities is bound to be fatal.

Entire world today is witnessing the effects of non-renewable energy sources like thermal power plants. The added cause of worry is that following this decision, many private players have also come in the picture. In a recent case, just 12 km from Sunderbans, a private company has started their project of 565 MW thermal power plant. Be it India or Bangladesh, effects of such activities is bound to be fatal.


By Supreet Aneja of Newsgram Twitter: @supreet_aneja

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Goddess Bonbibi: Here is Why this Goddess in Sunderban unites both Hindus and Muslims!

In Bengal's Sunderbans, both Hindu and Muslim community worship the Bonbibi goddess

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Goddess Bonbibi
Goddess Bonbibi in Sunderbans. Image source: beingkinetic.wordpress.com
  • The Goddess Bonbibi is worshiped by Hindu and Muslim communities in Bengal’s Sunderbans
  • Bibi serves as an all-purpose surname by Muslim women. Bonbibi literally means lady of the forest
  • Bonbibi festival is celebrated once every year in January and February

June 21, 2017: Bengal has sustained both Hindu and Muslim community for many years. Though a lot of difference exists in religious beliefs and practices of the two, one story sprouts similarity.

In Bengal’s Sunderbans, Goddess Bonbibi is worshiped by both the communities. The deity has been able to unite people from the two distinct religions. The Muslims can be seen as offering ‘bhog’, a Hindu tradition, to the goddess. In turn, interesting to note is the goddess’ name that ends with bibi- a predominantly Muslim women surname.

Historically, the goddess emerged as a protector of the fishing community, honey-gatherers and wood cutters from tiger attacks. Bonbibi literally means lady of the forest. It is a common belief that the goddess protects the forest and she never leaves the Sunderbans.

The devotees believe she was sent from the heavens to father Berahim and mother Golabibi in Mecca. The myth goes that two spiritual hats fell on her which helped her travel to Sunderbans. Upon arrival, she saw the forest to be ruled by man-eating tigers. Their tyrant god Dakhin Rai was responsible for human sacrifices.

Bonbibi defeated Dakhin Rai and helped the people live in a secure forest. The people thus considered Bonbibi a supreme being worthy of devotion. Since then, the village has been truthfully worshipping her.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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