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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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Travel Industry Expected To Make a Comeback After Autumn-Winter

Recovery for the travel industry would most likely take three to six more months, suggest experts

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Travel India
The hospitality and aviation sectors are arguably amongst the most impacted segments due to COVID-19. Pixabay

BY SIDDHI JAIN

With global travel strictly on hold and most wish-list destinations reeling under severe Coronavirus impact, tourism is one of the most most-affected industries. As international air travel remains suspended, inbound tourism (foreigners travelling into india) will be at a standstill in the coming few months.

According to a global luxury businesses panel hosted by S.P. Jain Global, the hospitality and aviation sectors are arguably amongst the most impacted segments due to COVID-19, with the Indian hospitality industry suffering losses to the tune of $4.5 billion. However, the industry is anticipating making a comeback by Q4, with certain sub-segments ruling over the others. In the meanwhile what happens to the travel trade? Well, all eyes seem to have turned to the domestic business and leisure market to make up the losses.

While inbound and outbound tourism is expected to be slow, owing to the restrictions placed by countries on international travellers, domestic corporate travel may also take a hit depending on the state of businesses in the country. However, domestic leisure travel is said to rebound swiftly, and will be a major factor in helping the industry recover post the pandemic.

“Initially, people stuck in different parts of the world will travel back to India. Overall, inbound tourism might witness a slow growth. Though India has always been a favourite and affordable spot for international tourists as well as for locals, we can expect a normality by 2021,” Debashish Maitra, director of IJ Dream Vacation told IANSlife. “In simple terms, the first roadblock to an international tours would be taking a flight, which many would like to avoid unless necessary,” says Krupa Gupta Saraogi of bookittours.

According to Ramesh Ramanathan, Chairman and Managing Director of Sterling Holiday Resorts, with international travel expected to slow down at least for this year, it will only add demand in favour of domestic travel, at least for the foreseeable future. “We are most likely to witness revenge spending once the lockdown is lifted, however, there would be a new set of considerations which will come in to play while shortlisting destinations — like safety, hygiene, social distancing, and proximity. Also, India has a plethora of splendid locations like the hill stations, beaches, forests, cultural sites, and other iconic attractions, and Indian travellers are most likely to plan stress-free pocket-friendly domestic vacation with their close ones,” he shares over email.

Travel
Indian travellers are most likely to plan stress-free pocket-friendly domestic vacation with their close ones. Pixabay

Ramanathan added that many are booking from July onwards, as a way to holiday out the COVID-19 stress, but a recovery would likely take three to six more months. Travel curator Ricky Nakhat does not anticipate a recovery before winter months. Post that, he says that more foreigners might likely tour India as the spread elsewhere is quite high.

How can we promote India as a safe travel space?

According to stakeholders, self-driving to destinations would see a considerable spike due to safety issues. Hotels, resorts, cab operators, airports and local city sights must ensure sanitisation and assure visitors of it, if they want to attract tourists. Medical tests of hospitality staff must be done regularly, apart from following basic norms of social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. Travel insurance would also be aggressively promoted.

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Visitors, especially the elderly and those with co-morbidities, can be encouraged to look at stays in zones declared Coronavirus-free or where a lower number of infections were reported. Also people are likely to prefer travelling in small groups. Promoting touchless technology might also help. (IANS)

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Thousands of Australians Get Killed Each Year Due To Heat: Study

Australian researchers have called to add climate change as an official cause of death In Australia, heat-related deaths have been under-reported in the country.

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Heat
Climate change an official cause of death in Australia study suggests. Pixabay

Australian researchers have called to add climate change as an official cause of death after a study published on Thursday found that heat-related deaths have been under-reported in the country.

The study, published by Australian National University (ANU), found that excessive natural heat has been responsible for at least 50 times more fatalities than recorded on death certificates, reports Xinhua news agency.

A statistical analysis found that 36,765 deaths in Australia over the past 11 years could have been attributed to heat, but there were only 340. “Climate change is a killer, but we don’t acknowledge it on death certificates,” Arnagretta Hunter, a co-author of the study from the ANU Medical School, said in a media release.  “If you have an asthma attack and die during heavy smoke exposure from bushfires, the death certificate should include that information.

Heat
Excessive natural heat was responsible for approximately 2 per cent of all deaths in Australia. Pixabay

“We can make a diagnosis of disease like coronavirus, but we are less literate in environmental determinants like hot weather or bushfire smoke,” Hunter said, adding that heat is the most dominant risk posed from climate change in Australia. According to the study, excessive natural heat was responsible for approximately 2 per cent of all deaths in Australia.

Hunter said the country’s death certificates must be modernized to capture the impact of global warming. “Climate change is the single greatest health threat that we face globally even after we recover from the coronavirus.

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“We know the summer bushfires were a consequence of extraordinary heat and drought and people who died during the bushfires were not just those fighting fires – many Australians had early deaths due to smoke exposure,” she said. (IANS)

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maldives
Now you can enjoy the sun sink in Maldives from the comfort of your couch. Pixabay

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The Coronavirus pandemic has put all our travel plans in a tail spin, and cancelled well researched vacations to places like Maldives.

To help with the anxiety, destinations are offering 3D virtual tours, high-quality immersive photographs and livestreaming local experiences, many people are touring from the comfort of their couch.

It is not just educational and cultural tours that virtual travellers can indulge in, but also moments of calm and quiet introspection. A new initiative by The Residence Maldives has begun to showcase inspiring visuals depicting the splendour of travel or bringing back memories from the Maldives. People ending their day in any part of the world can tune in to the Instagram LIVE of a sunset lanscape from the island nation’s resorts at Falhumaafushi and Dhigurah.

LA
Los Angeles Tourism is livestreaming the sunset from Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach. Pixabay

Whether it is to reminisce about the views, listen to the soothing sounds of the Indian Ocean waves, the setting sun can bring you to renewed hope that the next day may bring.

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In another part of the world, you can watch the sun sink into the glittering Pacific Ocean. Daily, Los Angeles Tourism is livestreaming the sunset from Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, beginning in the evenings.

“Collectively, we are on our couches, at our kitchen tables, peering out our windows and dreaming for the day we are on the other side of this pandemic. Whether a form of escapism or driving inspiration for a future trip, wanderlust is at an all-time high, and we want to bring a taste of Los Angeles to these dreamers,” concluded Don Skeoch, chief marketing officer for Los Angeles Tourism. (IANS)