India and Bangladesh will launch a joint programme, the first such in South Asia, to save the Sunderbans from the onslaught of climate change.
Sunderbans, a world heritage site, is spread over 10,000 km in the two countries, and is home to several hundred tigers and half of rare mangrove varieties found in India, has been facing the risk of disappearance because of climate change induced rising sea levels.
“There will be a joint forum between India and Bangladesh for protection of Sunderbans ecosystem that spreads from India to Bangladesh,” Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said.
Ramesh and his Bangladeshi counterpart Dr Hasan Mahmud will launch the joint programme in Kolkata next week, during which officials from the two countries will work out details of the programme. “They (forest officials) will work in close coordination to conserve the fragile ecosystem of the Sunderbans,” Ramesh said.
According to ministry officials, the two countries would work on conducting a joint census of tigers in the Sunderbans, 60 per cent of which are in Bangladesh. “As tigers migrate from India into Bangladesh and vice-versa, correct estimation of population may not be possible without a coordinated effort,” an official said. Indian Sunderbans have 60-70 tigers. Another area of cooperation is adaptation to climate change.
Although lakhs of villagers have built embankments against the rising seas, at least five islands are reported to have been submerged in the last 20 years. The latest is New Moore, whose submergence was confirmed by Jadavpur University through satellite imagery this week. The university’s head of oceanography department Sugata Hazra said the disappearance of the island shows how climate can affect everyone beyond geographical boundaries.