Agri Business

Climate change eats into Sundarbans

Ayan Pramanik Kolkata | Updated on November 14, 2017 Published on March 01, 2012

sundarbans   -  PTI

sundar

Agricultural productivity is waning in the biodiversity-rich Sundarbans owing to changing climate and ‘development deficits', according to a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The study, ‘Living with Changing Climate: Impact, vulnerability and adaptation challenges in Indian Sundarbans', said that the rise in sea level due to climate change in recent years resulted in erosion of lands.

Between 2002 and 2009, the availability of agricultural land shrunk from nearly 2,149.615 sq km to 1,691.246 sq km. Ten islands of the Sundarbans lost a total of 30.6 sq km land between 2001 and 2009.

According to the West Bengal Government 2009 data, paddy yield in South 24 Pargana, one of the two districts where the Indian portion of the Sundarbans lay, had been very low at 1.5-2 tonnes per hectare against a national average of 3.28 tonnes a hectare, the study noted.

The primary occupation of the 43.7-lakh inhabitants in 19 Sundarban blocks of North and South 24 Parganas is mono-crop agriculture that contributes to 77.55 per cent of the local economy directly or indirectly.

Environmental refugees

The average paddy production, however, has been 2.037 tonnes/hectare during 2009-10 in the 13 blocks of the Sundarbans area in South 24 Pargana alone.

Rapid increase in population and “extreme mismanagement of its fragile and limited land resources” has led to lower agricultural productivity and growing disenchantment of the rural poor, the study said.

Decline in agricultural growth has resulted in increasing migration from the Sundarbans. Large swathes of Sundarbans now depend on remittances sent by migrants, “who are essentially environmental refugees fleeing the effects of climate change and shrinking resources,” the study pointed out.

Currently, in 13 Sundarbans blocks of South 24 Pargana, about 47.5 per cent households are landless and another 41 per cent own land measuring 1 acre or less.

Only 64 per cent of the agricultural land has some kind of groundwater-based irrigation support.

“Development planning in Indian Sundarbans has never included climate change or its impacts within its purview of things – and this is quite evident from the way everything from electrification to land management is being done here,” Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director-General, CSE, said.

> ayan.pramanik@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 01, 2012
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