April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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CHALLENGES FACED BY SUNDARBANS

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TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: The Sundarbans are facing multifaceted challenges, ranging from environmental degradation to socio-economic disparities. However, through nature-based solutions, sustainable development initiatives, and inclusive policies, there is hope for preserving this invaluable ecosystem and improving the livelihoods of its inhabitants.

EXPLANATION:

  • The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar site.
  • It is a vast mangrove forest delta spread across India and Bangladesh.
  • Sundarbans is situated in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) delta and depends on the tidal rivers and mangroves.
  • The rivers are mostly saline as they disconnect from the ‘parent river’.
  • The scarcity of freshwater is the burning issue in the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve.
  • It provides shelter for 84 species of flora, including 26 mangrove species, 453 species of fauna, 120 species of fish, 290 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 35 reptiles and eight amphibian species.
  • More than 12 million people — 4.5 million in India and 7.5 million in Bangladesh — live in this estuarine ecosystem.
  • Its ecological significance extends to its role as a habitat for millions of people who depend on its resources for sustenance.

Challenges Facing the Sundarbans Ecosystem

  • Freshwater Scarcity:
    • The Sundarbans face freshwater scarcity due to the saline nature of tidal rivers and reduced flow from upstream, posing a significant challenge to the ecosystem’s health.
  • Environmental Pollution:
    • Pollution, including microplastic contamination from nearby rivers, chemical pollutants from industrial sources like Mongla Port and India’s Leather Estate, and hydrocarbon contamination, threatens the delicate balance of the Sundarbans ecosystem.
  • Human-Wildlife Conflicts and Exploitation:
    • Issues such as conflicts between humans and animals, trafficking, hunting, and unsustainable exploitation of forest resources exacerbate the challenges faced by the Sundarbans and its inhabitants.
  • Climate Change Impacts:
    • Rising temperatures, changing sea levels, coastal erosion, and extreme weather events attributed to climate change pose significant threats to the Sundarbans’ stability and biodiversity.
  • Urbanization and Land Encroachment:
    • Coastal erosion and sea-level rise have led to the encroachment of lands by saline waters, displacing communities and forcing migration to urban areas, putting further pressure on resources.

Nature-Based Solutions for Sundarbans

  • Promoting Sustainable Agriculture: Encouraging the cultivation of salt-tolerant crop varieties and promoting organic farming practices can mitigate the impact of freshwater scarcity and enhance agricultural productivity.
  • Economic Diversification and Livelihood Enhancement: Establishing agro-based enterprises, promoting medicinal plant cultivation, and supporting women-led self-help groups can create alternative livelihood opportunities and reduce dependency on fragile ecosystems.
  • Wastewater Treatment and Ecosystem Restoration: Utilizing indigenous aquatic plants, mangrove seedlings, and beneficial bacteria for wastewater treatment and pond ecosystem restoration can improve water quality and support aquatic biodiversity.
  • Clean Energy Initiatives: Implementing solar and bio-energy policies can provide sustainable energy solutions, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating environmental degradation.
  • Gender-Inclusive Development: Prioritizing women’s participation in development initiatives and ensuring their representation in decision-making processes can foster inclusive and sustainable development in the Sundarbans.
  • Healthcare Infrastructure and Disaster Preparedness: Establishing well-equipped healthcare facilities and disaster preparedness policies are essential for safeguarding the health and safety of Sundarbans inhabitants in the face of climate-related risks and natural disasters.
  • Cultural Preservation and Tourism Development: Promoting the unique culture and cuisine of the Sundarbans can attract tourism, contributing to economic growth while ensuring the preservation of local traditions and heritage.

World heritage site and UNESCO:

  • A World Heritage site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
  • World Heritage sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance.
  • The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered being of outstanding value to humanity.”
  • The concept of World Heritage emerged after WWII amid concerns over the widespread destruction of cultural sites and nature.
  • Efforts to remedy this led to the drafting of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, commonly known as the World Heritage Convention.
  • It established the framework to preserve the world’s outstanding heritage.

Ramsar Sites:

  • Any wetland site which has been listed under the Ramsar Convention that aims to conserve it and promote sustainable use of its natural resources is called a Ramsar Site.
  • Ramsar Convention is known as the Convention of Wetlands.
  • It was established in 1971 by UNESCO and came into force in 1975.
  • India is a party to the Ramsar Convention. India signed under it on 1st February 1982.
  • The Ramsar Convention works closely with six organizations known as International Organization Partners(IOPs). These are:
    • Birdlife International
    • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
    • International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
    • Wetlands International
    • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
    • International Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/nature-based-solutions-can-help-sundarbans-survive-95230

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