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Indo-Bangladesh: Climate Change, tourism causing ‘irreversible damage’ to Sundarbans Reserve

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Sundarbans
Bengal Tiger of the Sundarbans. Image source: blogspot.com/

New Delhi: Unregulated tourism and rapidly increasing temperatures are posing “irreversible damage” to the Sundarbans biosphere reserve, one of the largest mangrove habitats in the world, environmental groups warn.

Uncontrolled tourism is polluting the reserve, which is shared by India and Bangladesh, to an extent that is “beyond rectification,” Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), told reporters.

“Tourism, especially for tiger viewing, is increasing exponentially in the area and needs to be monitored. It is causing major pollution, as huge quantities of plastic material and other debris are dumped into the water,” she said.

The Sundarbans, a delta of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basin, is spread over 9,630 square km (3,718 square miles).

The Indian side of Sundarbans covers a 4,000-square-km (1,544-square-mile) area with a population of around 5 million.

Out of 102 islands within the Sundarbans, 54 are inhabited while 48 are forested. The forested part has three wildlife sanctuaries and a national park, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Image source: benarnews.org
Image source: benarnews.org

‘A heightened state of danger’

The largest habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundarbans is home to five critically endangered reptiles, including the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and River Terrapin.

The endangered and near-threatened species in Sundarbans include the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle, Indian Rock Python, King Cobra, Greater Adjutant Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Fishing Cat and Gangetic Dolphin.

According to official figures, about 175,000 tourists visited the Sundarbans tiger reserve, while another 42,000 people visited the biosphere reserve in 2015.

Besides large-scale tourism, climate change is also posing a threat to Sundarbans, according to World Wildlife Fund-India (WWF-India).

A Climate Adaptation Report released by the group warned that Sundarbans was “already in the midst of a heightened state of danger.”

Atmospheric warming is causing thermal expansion of waters, inducing a sea-level rise of about 12 mm per year, the report said, adding that surface air temperatures over the Bay of Bengal have been rising at a rate of 0.019 degrees Celsius (0.034 degrees Fahrenheit) per year.

“Given the disproportionately heavy impact that climate change is expected to have on this delta area, the need to improve adaptive management and develop more appropriate solutions for this unique system has become acutely urgent,” the WWF report said.

Ratul Saha, who heads WWF’s Sundarbans Landscape team, said, “The current policies and patterns of development have to be completely revised, or else the situation would be catastrophic. The livelihoods and the survival of the people are at risk.”

Climate change has been found to be responsible for several cyclonic storms and increased frequency of extreme weather events in the recent past in the Sundarbans, Saha said. It has also been causing coastal erosion, change in embankments, acidification of waters and submergence of islands, he added.

Cross-border infiltration

Another major threat to the habitat is the increasing salinity in the waters, which is resisting the growth of mangroves, locals said.

Besides rising salinity levels, infiltration from Bangladesh into the Indian side of Sundarbans in West Bengal state is a matter of concern for wildlife conservationists.

“Infiltration does take place. We cannot dispute that. But these intruders come only during the honey season [April-May],” Pradeep Vyas, Chief Wildlife Warden in West Bengal told reporters.

“We are jointly patrolling the border areas with the Border Security Force and Indian Coast Guard to check infiltration,” he said.

Vyas said his department was doing its best to protect the habitat.

“We have banned the use of polythene bags. We are also trying to develop new tourism destinations to take pressure off the over-utilized parts [of the Sundarbans],” he said.

(The article was originally published in benarnews.org)

  • Annesha Das Gupta

    Yes, a fusion of environmental concern and tourism should be done. Ecologically responsible tourism will not only benefit the endangered flora and fauna but also will keep the flow of people and finance coming in.

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Here are 4 Travel Destinations for Couples

Honeymoon destination worth considering

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Couples
Here are some travel destinations for couples seeking a romantic holiday. Pixabay

One can pick from a wide array of idyllic locales such as Greece, Switzerland, South Africa, and Italy. But how do you choose whether you want to snuggle up in front of a fire and relax to the sound of the tides on a hammock? Heres is a list of this seasons handpicked hotels for the discerning traveller. Couples seeking the ultimate romantic holiday can choose from a range of experiences and settings such as – hidden getaways, wellness retreats, culinary sojourns and adventure in the wilderness.

1. The SECLUDED RETREAT

Myconian Villa Collection, Greece

Nestled into the hillside above Elia Bay, the Mykonian ?Villa Collection is a unique luxury? resort? ?concept. ?This tranquil island escape offers impeccable service with quintessential Greek decor accented by bespoke wood-crafted furnishing and vibrant fabrics. The essence of Myconian beauty and lifestyle runs like a blue thread through a constellation of exceptionally spacious suites and rooms, while superb villas offer the discreet yet boundless opulence of a private house in Mykonos. Leaning into the mountain, the terraced villas have uninterrupted views of the Aegean Sea, culminating in a 360-degree panorama on the vast entertainment deck with its plush bar, epicurean restaurant and saltwater infinity pool.

Travellers can choose the luxurious privacy of the Lover’s Suite where special services such as in-room evening meals, couples’ massages on the scenic deck, and other such intimate indulgences can be experienced. This Cycladic Island combines a romantic ambience for newlyweds with sandy beaches, turquoise waters and a world-class nightlife scene for evenings that take guests into the morning hours.

Guests can book a longer stay for 3 nights or more, and save up to 30% on the Best Available Rates at this member hotel with the �Stay More Save More Offer’ from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This offer is valid for bookings made from now till December 31, 2019; for stays through March 31, 2020.

Greece couples
A holiday in Greece provides secluded retreat to couples. Pixabay

2. The WELLNESS GETAWAY

The Capra, Switzerland

An intimate, alpine luxury spa lodge in a spectacular natural setting. The Capra is a car-free Swiss ski resort, also a favourite among winter sports connoisseurs. There is guaranteed high-quality snow, and authentic charm – combining the cosiness of a chalet with the comforts of a luxury hotel. Expansive suites in warm earthy tones have panoramic views of snow-frosted peaks, pristine valleys, and wide-open skies where guests can relax, recharge and reconnect with nature. The fire-lit lounge, well-appointed library, and deluxe spa are designed to soothe the senses. Even more indulgent is the wholesome farm-to-table cuisine offered at the hotel.

The Spa at the resort is run and managed by Peak Health. Their goal is not only to help guests to unwind, but to develop personal strategies and holistic approach to resetting health based on the latest scientific research by a team of wellness experts from around the globe. The Spa offers a fully immersive retreat programme that helps guests transform their lifestyle, it also consists of indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pools, salt-therapy rooms, saunas, fully equipped gym, yoga studio, and a varied selection of intensive treatments for the mind and body.

3. ADVENTURE ESCAPE

Gondwana Game Reserve, South Africa

Less than a four-hour drive from Cape Town International Airport, along South Africa’s scenic Garden Route, the 11,000-hectare Private Game Park offers a distinctive and luxurious safari destination with free-roaming Big 5 safari animals (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, and leopard). Gondwana Game Reserve is known for its well-appointed safari lodge accommodation, awe-inspiring views, attentive service, exquisite South African cuisine, and an array of adventure-linked activities including game drives, birdwatching, fynbos walks, mountain biking, hiking trails and more. Luxury accommodation is offered in Kwena Lodge, a modern twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. The 14 open-plan suites are nestled into the breath-taking natural surroundings with 180-degree views, skylights for star gazing, fireplaces and deep baths.

Gondwana Game Reserve is an ideal African honeymoon destination for adventure enthusiasts. It is a picture-perfect retreat where guests can create lasting memories on their romantic vacation, from immersing themselves in the spectacular scenery, enjoying private dining experiences, to the reinvigorating Africology massages at the spa and more.

Italy couples
Italy is a very romantic travel place for couples. Pixabay

4. CULINARY SOJOURNS

Il Castelfalfi, Italy

Nestled amid the sun-kissed Tuscan hills, surrounded by vineyards, centuries-old olive trees and period farmhouses, Il Castelfalfi is the perfect getaway to plan a romantic escape. Sample traditional ingredients and flavours with a cooking class at Rosso Toscano Cooking school and visit the local vineyards to discover the favourite wines. Once set in a village, the grounds now surrounding the resort are filled with charming shops and restaurants sure to transport travellers to a different era.

At the gourmet restaurant – La Rocca di Castelfalfi, top chef Michele Rinaldi reinterprets traditional cuisine for guests to savour. Located within the medieval castle brought back to life after a meticulous restoration, the restaurant is a landmark in the village, where guests enjoy the authentic taste of

Also Read- Top 5 Tourist Places in South Korea’s Incheon

The above-listed hotels are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts – Legend Collection. Guests can book a longer stay for 3 nights or more, and save up to 30% on the Best Available Rates at this member hotel with the �Stay More Save More Offer’ from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This offer is valid for bookings made from now till December 31, 2019; for stays through March 31, 2020. (IANS)