The four-year long wait to see the Sunderbans find a place in the New Seven Wonders of Nature has ended in a frustration.
The Sunderbans - known for being the largest mangrove delta spanning over two countries and home to the only mangrove tiger and the largest esturine crocodile, was voted out of the race on Friday night after making its way to the final-28.
Eminent personalities of West Bengal including former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had appealed to the people to vote for the Sunderbans. On Tuesday Sunderbans affairs minister Shyamal Mandal had made a similar appeal. But it seems to have elicited a tepid response.
State forest minister Hiten Barman who hilself voted for the Sunderbans said: "Its very unfortunate. We had done our best starting from opening a website, appealing to the mass to appealing to the mass. But this is an international issue. The union government should have a little more active."
Various government and non-governmental bodies, mobile operators and the media of both India and Bangladesh had campaigned to vote for the Sunderbans. There had been a lot of interactions and discussions at the non-governmental levels between the two countries on this topic. Even a few Bollywood film stars such as Shahrukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee had supported the cause.
Even though Bangladesh's Cox Bazar beach – the largest sea beach in the world had initially made it to the list but was voted out long ago, leaving behind Sunderbans the only contender from the two neighbouring countries.
"It is indeed a sad news. Apart from the prestige issue, had the Sunderbans made it into the first seven, international attention would have been drawn to this place. There could have been an increased scope for international aids and tourism," said director of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve, Subrat Mukherjee.
A 'provisional' list published on the website of the New Seven Wonders Foundation in Switzerland, did not include the mangrove forest. The list marks South America's Amazon, Halong Bay of Vietnam, Iguazu Falls of Argentina and Brazil, Jeju Island of South Korea, Komodo of Indonesia, Puerto Princesa Underground River of the Philippines and Table Mountain of Africa as the new seven natural wonders.
The voting process started from November 11, 2008. A total of 261 sites, out of 404 primarily selected sites, made their way into the second round through online voting. The list was further cut down to 77 sites through six months of voting from January 7 to July 7, 2009. The voting for the finally elected top 28 places started from July 21 last year in which Sunderbans had become a top rated contender.
The winners would be announced in early 2012 in a ceremony.