What would you do if you see all that you
have in life sinking right in front of you? Ghoramara, an island 150 km south
of Kolkata, in the sensitive Sunderbans delta complex of the Bay of Bengal, has
earned the stark sobriquet of “sinking island”. Once it spanned 20 sq km. Now it is reduced to an area of 5
“Over the last two decades I’ve lost three acres of cultivable land to the Muriganga river and had to shift home four times. There has been no resettlement initiative from the government,” says Anwara Bibi, 30, a resident of Nimtala village on the island.
Global warming, high tides and floods play havoc on fragile embankments, displacing hundreds of islanders every year. “Most men have migrated to work in construction sites in southern India,” says Sanjeev Sagar, Panchayat Pradhan of Ghoramara Island.
More than 600 families have been displaced in the last three decades, leaving around 5,000 residents struggling with harsh monsoons every year.
“A large-scale mangrove plantation could prevent tidal erosion. With every high tide a part of the island is getting washed away,” says Sugata Hazra, a professor at the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University.
Only those without means to migrate are left. Recent research conducted by the School of Oceanographic Studies has estimated that 15 per cent of Sunderbans would sink by 2020, with the possibility of Ghoramara disappearing from the map altogether.
The fragile embankment often gives away to large tidal waves causing widespread inundation, resulting in loss of cultivable land and animals.
Rising sea levels have washed away more than 50 per cent of Ghoramara area since 1980s. Two-thirds of its population have been forced to take refuge in the adjacent Sagar Island.
Salt water inundation has increased soil salinity, making agriculture difficult. Betel vine cultivation is one of the major sources of income for islanders. But rising water levels have washed away acres of plantation leading to a severe financial crisis.
Factors like erosion, embankment failure, cyclone and storm surges are leading to habitat loss, resulting in large-scale migration from the Island.
The Sundarbans are among the world’s largest groups of delta islands. The sensitive ecosystem has been drastically altered because of extensive erosion on its eastern side.
Sonali Khatun, 13, a class VII student of the Ghoramara Milan
Vidyapeeth. Frequent flooding makes it difficult for
students to reach the school.
Bhogoboti Dolui, 12 stands on an almost uprooted tree near Hathkhola village. Constant flooding and surging tides wash away the soil, which eventually uproot the trees.
Passengers walk the plank to board a trawler. The low tide makes it difficult for the boat to come closer.
Chaya Mondal, 76, waits near the water line, where trawlers return with the day’s catch.