Context: Unprecedented damage due to cyclone Yaas, calls for policies geared to climate change.
- Every cyclone throws up new challenges to the Sundarbans and its inhabitants.
- For people in the ecologically fragile Sunderbans, life revolves around battling high tides daily and cyclones regularly.
- Over just the past three years, the Sunderbans, which is home to close to five million people, has been battered by four tropical cyclones i.e.,
- Fani (May 2019),
- Bulbul (November 2019),
- Amphan (May 2020) and
- Yaas (May 2021).
- On each occasion, the region has suffered damage because of gale winds and breached embankments, leading to ingress of sea water.
- The intensity of the gale winds has ranged from 100 kmph to 150 kmph during each of the cyclones.
- Unprecedented Surge:
- Cyclone Yaas made landfall about 200 km south of the Sundarbans in Odisha, flooding large areas of the estuary.
- The cumulative effect of the full moon tide and the cyclone led to the overflowing and breach of embankments in large areas of the Sundarbans.
- Under Water:
- Three days after the cyclone, several areas of Sunderbans remain inundated, forcing people to huddle in cyclone shelters or spend days on embankments.
- Ghoramara is one of the islands (Mouth of Hoogly river) that has been sinking due to rising sea levels, where a few dozen houses and acres of land go under water every year.
- Sagar Island, the biggest island of the Sundarbans chain and site of the famous Gangasagar Mela during Makar Sankranti, has also suffered damage.
- The sea water from the site where the devotees take a holy dip surged several kilometres inland crossing the Kapil Muni temple.
- Large parts in Gosaba and Sandeshkhali block, in the eastern part of the delta remain under water three days after the cyclone and the high tide.
- Engineering Shortfall:
- The Chief Minister of West Bengal stressed on a permanent solution for the Sundarbans and low-lying coastal areas.
- The embankment is repaired every year and then a cyclone comes, and it has to be repaired again.
- Sunderbans has embankments of 3,250 km.
- Lack of scientific information in dealing with a complex estuarine delta which has become a hot spot of climate change is emerging as a challenge for the policy makers.
- Experts say the solution to the perennial problem lies in following:
- Long-term planning,
- Preparation of a master plan for the socio-economic development of the region.
- Adopting strategies that will minimise the impact of climate change, and
- Disaster management suited to the region.
- The Sundarbans comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
- The Indian Sundarbans covers 4,200 sq km.
- It comprises of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq km which is home to about 96 Royal Bengal Tigers (as per last census in 2020 )
- It is also a world heritage site and a Ramsar Site.
- Out of the 428 birds listed, some, like the Masked Finfoot and Buffy fish owl, are recorded only from the Sunderbans.
- The area is home to nine out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country as well as rare species such as the Goliath heron and Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
- The Indian Sunderbans are the most diverse of natural landscapes and account for 60 % of all mangrove forests in the country.
Kapil Muni Temple:
- It is dedicated to Sage Kapila muni is situated at Sagar Island about 100 kms west of Kolkata in West Bengal.
- It is believed that the deity was installed in 1437 by Swami Ramanand.
- The current structure is a recent one and it has a stone block, considered to be the representation of Sage Kapil.
- The original site of the temple has been washed away by the sea. But an attractive new temple has replaced the previous temple.
- There are the emblems of the Sea, Ganga Devi and Bhagiratha besides that of Kapila Muni.
- Gangasagar Mela:
- It is celebrated on Makar Sankranti Day here.
- Pilgrims take a holy dip in the Ganges, before going to the temple.
Source: The Hindu