The Sunderbans, the sole contender from India in the worldwide online voting to select seven wonders of nature, is lagging behind in terms of votes obtained last month.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had personally appealed to people to vote for the Sunderbans. But it seems to have elicited a tepid response so far, though the world’s largest mangrove forests attracted concern at the climate summit Copenhagen in December.
“Apart from the prestige issue, if the Sunderbans gets into the first seven, international attention would be drawn to this place. There would be increased scope for international aids and toursim,” said Kanti Ganguly, Sunderban affairs minister of West Bengal.
In 2009, the Taj Mahal made it to the final list of the New Seven Wonders of the world by popular votes that went on for more than a year.
The new project to select the seven wonders of nature is following a similar process – online voting over a period of time.
The results will be known in 2011.
Initially there were more than 100 entries. From India the Sunderbans was the only entrant in a final list of 28 that includes the Grand Canyon of the US, the Amazon of Brazil, the Maldives and the Black Forest of Germany.
The Sunderbans delta is shared between Indian and Bangladesh and lies as a natural demarcation between the Bay of Bengal. Several of its islands like the Ghoramara might be erased from the face of the Indian landmass as a result of rising sea levels often blamed on global warming.
NGOs, however, differ on the projected benefits.
“The government that is urging people to vote has done very little for the Aila victims of the Sunderbans. Would a place in the final seven change in the life of the people,” asks Biswajit Roy Choudhury of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society.
“We have not given much attention about spreading the word in the urban areas where people are most likely to vote. We will do so in our future programs,” said Saswati Sen, Director of the Kolkata unit of World Wildlife Federation.