Sundarban Current Affairs
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has published first of its kind compendium titled Fauna of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve in Indian Sundarbans. It has consolidated and updated information of faunal diversity of Sundarbans.
Indian segment of Sundarbans is part of UNESCO World Heritage site. It forms part of Ganga-Brahmaputra delta across 9,630 sq. km, distributed among 104 islands. It has largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
The compendium catalogues entire faunal diversity of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve covering 9,630 sq. km spread over 19 blocks in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal. According to it, fragile Sundarbans ecosystem region hosts 2,626 animal species that come under zoological kingdom of Animalia, and 140 under more primitive Protista. It also includes diverse 25 phyla.
Animal and Mammalian species: Famous Bengal tigers adapted to aquatic conditions have been documented. 50 mammalian species are also documented including the Asian small-clawed Otter, Gangetic Dolphin, Grey and Marsh Mongoose. Wild Rhesus Monkey, only primate found in Sunderbans is also documented.
The mammal numbers are declining in Sunderbans due to pressure on habitat from people and natural threats that have shrunk mangrove swamp habitat. Two Rhinos, Swamp deer, Barking deer and Hog deer and Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo no more are not found in Sundarbans.
Bird species: There are 356 species of birds, including raptors (birds of prey). Other birds found here are Osprey, Brahminy Kite, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Rose-ringed parakeets, flycatchers and warblers. Kingfishers are found abound and Sundarbans has nine of them.
Fish and amphibian species: The mangrove ecosystem covers about 350 species of fish. Cartilaginous fish make up 10.3%. The IUCN conservation status shows 6.3% fish are near-threatened and 4.85% are threatened. Also, there are 173 molluscs. Moreover, Crustaceans — crabs, shrimp and prawns — constitute 334 species. Besides, ten species of frogs and toads are found. There are 11 turtles, including the famous Olive Ridley, Hawskbill sea turtles and most threatened freshwater River Terrapin.
Insect and Reptile species: The region has 753 insect species. Of these, 210 are butterflies and moths. Crocodile, 13 lizards including three species of Monitor Lizards and five Geckos are also found. The rivers, creeks channels and islands together harbour about 30 snake species including monocled cobra, Russell’s viper, common and banded kraits.
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
ZSI is India’s apex organization on animal taxonomy. It was established in 1916. Its objective is to promote the survey, exploration, research and documentation on various aspects of animal taxonomy in Indian subcontinent. It also seeks advancement of knowledge on animal taxonomy. It has been declared as the designated repository for the National Zoological Collection as per section 39 of the National Biodiversity Act, 2002.
As per World Bank’s recently released report Building Resilience for Sustainable Development of the Sundarbans, environmental damage in the climate change-hit islands of Sundarbans is costing India Rs. 1,290 crore each year.
This report was jointly prepared by World Bank in collaboration with the West Bengal government.
Key facts of report
- Losses- Annually the cost of environmental damage associated with ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss is about Rs. 670 crore. While, the cost of health effects due to poor environment is estimated at Rs. 620 crore.
- Factors- The losses are due to combination of factors associated with unsustainable and inefficient economic activities in Sundarbans.
- These factors include mangrove destruction, impact of cyclones, reduced agricultural yields and unsustainable fisheries as well as destruction of ecosystem services.
- Cyclones- Damage costs from cyclones are the highest and accounts for damages worth Rs. 290 crore. It also includes damages to houses, agriculture, human injuries and fatalities.
- Health issues- Due to environmental degradation, villagers in Sundarbans are suffering from poor health outcomes. This degradation is generally in the form of adverse natural events, such as cyclones and storms and increases in soil salinity.
- These risk factors contribute considerably to mortality and morbidity, particularly among women and children.
- Other losses- Climate change along with the sea level rise also has resulted in shrimp losses, carbon sequestration losses associated with degradation of mangrove forest, soil salinity in terms of impact on rice yields, loss of biodiversity and agricultural land losses.
Sundarbans is an archipelago of 54 islands and is home to about 44 lakh people. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In recent times it is hit hard by an increase in floods, storms, salinity and erosion caused by rising sea-levels and global warming.