Sunderbans plantation: Shield against cyclones but obstruction for animals?

What is the news?

West Bengal’s move to develop mangroves in the Sunderbans is obstructing animal movement in the forest.

Background: South 24 Parganas district administration had earlier this year finalized plans to plant over 5 crore mangrove saplings and earmarked over 2,000 hectares of land in the Sunderbans for the plantation.

Why an emphasis on development of Mangroves?

Firstly, mangroves act as a natural barrier and minimize the impact of cyclones

Secondly, to protect embankments from waves during cyclones

What are the challenges?

Obstruction in free movement of animals: To protect mangrove plantations, nets have been put up inside the Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary area, but these are now blocking paths of wild animals.

Disturbance to mudflats: Mudflats, where the saplings have been planted, work as ecotones in Sunderbans, like what grasslands do in a dense, wooded forest. Hence, they should never be disturbed. Apart from wild animals, these mudflats are also used by waders like whimbrel, Eurasian curlew and common sandpiper, among others, and even storks that frequent the water in search of food.

What is the way forward?

As per experts, a proper dialogue is needed to find an alternative so that forest land is kept outside the purview of such drives.

About Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary

Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary is located at the confluence of Matla and Gumdi rivers, in West Bengal.

It is considered a part of the Sunderbans ecosystem.

Source: This post is based on the article “Sunderbans plantation: Shield against cyclones but obstruction for animals?” published in TOI on 25th Dec 2021.

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