Salinisation from climate change posing threat to Sunderbans of West Bengal

Accumulation of salts in the  soil is leading to reduced fertility (salinisation) is a “poorly understood” process and is a “silent” threat to the Sunderbans mangrove forests, a World Bank report said on Monday The strategy report ‘Building Resilience For Sustainable Development of the Sunderbans’ was presented by the organisation at the conclusion of a three-day international workshop in West Bengal on Saturday. The report said the role of future climate change adaptation is less urgent in comparison to current challenges, but climate change casts a long shadow over ongoing degradation of the resource base. The findings highlight the adverse impact of increasing salinity on agriculture and biodiversity.

Further information

World Bank report, Building Resilience For Sustainable Development of the Sunderbans. Washington, DC: World Bank Group (2014). Recognizing the importance and uniqueness of the Sundarbans, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Indian portion of the forest a World Heritage Site in 1987, and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program has included the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve in the Global Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves Contributing to Action on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. While the Sundarbans region is celebrated for its ecological attributes, it is a difficult place to live in. The inhabited portions of India’s Sundarbans are characterized by severe poverty, which both contributes to and arises from the vulnerability of the population to a growing range of natural hazards. Resilience is characterized by a capacity to adapt to changing conditions and persistent stresses by responding effectively. However, the resilience of those residing in the Sundarbans has been undermined by a long series of persistent pressures. Sea level rise, salinization of soil and water, cyclonic storms and flooding have combined over the past century to render this one of the most hazardous areas in the Indian subcontinent.