ripples-from-yaas-and-surging-tides-devastate-the-sunderbans

Context: Unprecedented damage due to cyclone Yaas, calls for policies geared to climate change.

Background:

  • 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.

Concerns:

  • 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. 

Way Forward:

  • 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.

Related Facts:

Sunderbans:

  • 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