Once again, the Sundarbans saved many lives and properties from a catastrophic cyclone named Amphan which battered the coast of Bay of Bengal both in Bangladesh and India on Wednesday night packing a wind speed of around 160 to 180kph. The world’s largest mangrove forest was at the epicentre of the super cyclone’s landfall in Bangladesh, and thus acted as a bulwark against the fury of the cyclone by reducing wind speed substantially.
Amphan was the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal and it was being feared that it will take a devastating toll on the life, livelihood and properties in West Bengal of India and the coast of Bangladesh. Although it will take some time to fully determine the cost of the cyclone, prima facie evidence shows that Bangladesh was saved from large-scale death and devastations, thanks largely to the Sundarbans. Meanwhile, the situation in West Bengal is reportedly grim.However, this is not the first time that the Sundarbans have saved Bangladesh from sever adverse impact of the natural disasters. It has been doing so since time immemorial; but regrettably, often we overlook the importance of the mangrove in our national life and take development projects which badly affect the biodiversity of the forest.
The Sundarbans is recognised as the most diverse ecosystem in Bangladesh but it is experiencing the highest rate of ecosystem loss. One after another cyclones have left the forest deeply ravaged while salinity is inflicting great damage on the forest environment. Very little has been done to repair the damages.
When environmental degradation is taking a heavy toll on the ecosystem of the forest, poachers and timber smugglers are not sitting idle. Their predatory activities and looting of forest wealth are contributing to a faster degradation of the forest resources. Moreover, we are witnessing a mushrooming growth of development projects around the mangrove which will have severe detrimental effect on the environment and the forest.
Against this backdrop, Amphan once again remind us that we must not take any initiative that can cause harm to the Sundarbans. Rather, we should take care of the forest with intensive afforestation programmes.