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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 Some Tips For Solo Women Travellers

5 hacks for women solo traveller

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Women solo
Going solo is a way for many to unplug with more and more women taking solo trips. Pixabay

Going solo is a way for many to unplug with more and more women taking solo trips. If you, too, are planning your very first solo trip, here are a few useful tips to keep in mind shared by Rashmi Chadha, founder of Wovoyage, a women centric travel startup.

1. Destination matters: Prepare for the country you are travelling to

Read about the country or the city you are travelling to. Complete your research and prepare for your travel accordingly. This is the age of internet and you can read blogs or watch vlogs which can provide great knowledge about a particular place and help you plan a perfect trip. Download audio tour apps, Google translator and the country’s most useful travel applications.

2. Go Locale: Blend in, learn the local language, culture

It’s always better to gel with the locals as people become friendlier and you get a better experience. See if you can learn how to say some basic words like thank you, sorry, ask for water or directions, etc. in the local language which can help you connect with the locals and even find your way back to your hotel in some situations.

Learn how to blend in – it means dressing and speaking like a local whenever necessary, which can give you a chance to know the place more intimately and made the experience more wonderful.

Solo travel
If you’re a solo women traveller then you should complete your research and prepare for your travel accordingly. Pixabay

3. Be the early bird: Book in advance

Never land in a country without booking your stay. It gives you your first direction after stepping out of the airport. Even book your transfers from the airport to the hotel to avoid putting yourself in a stranded situation. Find the best solutions to get to your hotel from the airport online and book it.

Find and book your city tours online days before the date of travel. You might get better deals online than you will get on the spot.

4. Feel Empowered: Book local tours with female-run firms or women guides

Women are more comfortable with other women, it’s always safe, trustworthy and what will be better than women empowering each other. There are many women guides available in every city. Look for tours operated by female guides and book them beforehand. Look for homestays provided by women, sometimes you might get a chance to book tours provided by those homestays and get to experience the city in the best possible way like a local.

5. Prioritise safety: Women-only and women friendly accommodation

Besides travelling with precaution, where you stay during the vacation is pivotal to your safety. Women-only accommodations are an option and offer not only a safe ambience, but are also managed by an all-female workforce.

Also Read- Know About the Benefits of These Healthy Seeds

There are women dorms in hostels that you can book or you can look for hotels that have a women-only floor. You can ask for special requirements while making a reservation and book the room according to your needs. Look for centrally located and accessible places that can solve your how to reach problems. (IANS)