By Arré Bench May. 22, 2020
Cyclone Amphan has caused irreparable damage to the Sunderbans. And while we see images of the devastation in cities, the mangrove forest and its inhabitants rarely make it to the frontpage.
Cyclone Amphan was one of the worst storms to hit the coastline of the Bay of Bengal in decades, bringing widespread destruction in its wake. Both West Bengal which saw 72 deaths and the neighbouring nation of Bangladesh felt the brunt of the storm. While images of the destruction in urban areas have been circulating on social media and the internet, we are yet to see the extent of the damage caused by Amphan in the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a source of livelihood for people living in the region on both sides of the border.
Please post about us. Even if you’re not Odia, Bengali and have never been to Eastern India and Bangladesh, post about us. Share our misery, the devastation of the Sunderbans is as critical a threat to the world as Australian and Amazonian wildfires. #NationalDisasterAmphan
— Ahona Panda (@ahona_panda) May 21, 2020
The Sunderbans are often used by residents engaged in the business of collecting honey or wood, and the mangrove forest itself protects the riverine delta region from the ravages of rough seas by breaking up the inflow of strong tides and blocking saline water from seeping into the water table. However, the destruction caused by Cyclone Amphan was so devastating that the powerful winds have caused water to move from sea to land, affecting irrigation and farming in the region.
People in the #Sundarbans are devastated by Cyclone Amphan which has destroyed embankments protecting farms, allowing saltwater in.
(Fishers in Sundarbans were hurting before this and now many have lost everything.) They need our help.https://t.co/YXSkeXutj3
— Arati Kumar-Rao (@AratiKumarRao) May 22, 2020
Once again, the Sunderbans forest has stood between the people of the region and absorbed the full fury of Cyclone Amphan as it made landfall.
The damage caused by the cyclone is immense, but it could have been much worse had it not been for the Sunderbans. Cyclone Amphan was at 270km/hr (approx) but it made landfall at 160km/hr (approx) — you can thank Bonbibi and the mangroves of Sunderbans. https://t.co/VPLXz8UXSg
— Deepanjana (@dpanjana) May 21, 2020
Mint calls it the fiercest cyclone of the century for Bengal and Orissa. #Amphan came in at a speed of 270 km/hr and made landfall at 160 km/hr. Had in not been for the mangroves of Sunderbans damage could have been more. Time and again, this archephelo has saved us. pic.twitter.com/MqzOH1oWDz
— Deep Halder (@deepscribble) May 21, 2020
Just like the disaster-struck landscape, the people of the Sunderbans are also looking at a long period of recovery after this cyclone. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many who could have moved from the region are unable to do so. The ones who have to stay there will have to contend with the damage the cyclone has caused to both fishing and farming, the two main food sources in the region. A report in The Telegraph quotes Chandan Maity, a resident of the West Bengal district of 24 Parganas, as saying, “The stagnant saline water in the farmland will make it impossible this year. The sweet water bodies will be filled with saltwater making them unfit for irrigation.”
Outside of South Asia, I find not many people know about the Sundarbans. So I'm going to do a basic thread about this.
The Sundarbans is a 10k sq km mangrove forest, formed at the delta of three rivers, straddling two nations, home to 4.5 million of the world’s poorest people.
— Shalmi 🐝 (@Ornithophobix) May 21, 2020
The Sunderbans is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it has been vulnerable to overexploitation, deforestation, and most of all climate change even before Cyclone Amphan hit and worsened conditions. The loss of this unique and precious ecosystem would spell disaster for the entire region. Not only are the mangrove forests a natural defence against inclement weather like the cyclones that tear through the Bay of Bengal, they are also home to some of India’s most endangered wildlife species, like Royal Bengal tigers, Gangetic dolphins, and Olive Ridley turtles.
Mangroves are our best defence against cyclone, storm surge & wave action.
This is how it protects the coast👇
Let’s hope that the mangrove delta of Sunderbans where Super cyclone Amphan is likely to make landfall, will act as a shield against the most severe one brewing in BoB. pic.twitter.com/GJJ2a0S5Ng
— Susanta Nanda IFS (@susantananda3) May 19, 2020
Try as we might to pretend like we are above the natural order, it only takes a single superstorm like Cyclone Amphan to remind us just how dependent we are on our ecosystems to survive. Experts have been trying to draw public attention to the degradation of the Sunderbans for years. It’s high time we started to listen.