KOLKATA: People in the Sundarbans have started migrating towards cities with increasing vulnerability from climate change and shrinking opportunities for livelihood, experts said on Saturday.
The Sundarbans is one of the largest mangrove forest running through parts of India and Bangladesh.
"People from Indian part of Sundarbans as well as Bangladesh, have already started migrating towards north but in a smaller number. That is why this migration was not noticed yet. Salinity is causing health problems and because of climate change, bio-diversity and quantum of fish is dropping. Opportunities are going down, conservationist Bittu Sahgal said.
Criticising the building of bunds (raised muddy wall along the bank) in Sundarbans, he said they (bunds) keep salt water inside and eventually, it gets mixed up with fresh drinking water causing kidney problems.
He said every square millimetre of the Sundarbans has some function, but people are changing the function of the delta.
"When you are trying to fight with nature and not understanding that the nature is not going to give you any judgement, it will only give you consequences," Sahgal said at Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.
Sumit Sen, honorary Wildlife Warden of South 24-Parganas district in West Bengal, pointed out that the Indian part of Sundarbans faces a problem of non-availability of adequate fresh water from uplands through rivers.
"We have cut off almost all upstream links that used to drain water from uplands to the delta," he said.
Sharing his experience at the delta, particularly when the cyclone 'Aila' hit Sundarbans in 2009, conservationist and writer Bikram Grewal said, "...where they (people) have cut mangroves, those parts have gone with people and houses... the forest was untouched because we left it untouched. When we start interfering with nature, the problem starts."