Dr R K Pachauri sounds climate alert for Sundarbans

Dr R K Pachauri

Indian science congress: 'Need for dykes, mangroves'

Nobel laureate and director-general of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) Dr R K Pachauri on Sunday expressed concern over rising sea levels in the Sundarban delta the world's largest mangrove forest that straddles India and Bangladesh.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Indian Science Congress, Pachauri said there is a need to take adaptation measures to address the issue. "The rise in sea levels in Sundarbans is a cause of worry," he said.

Researchers of the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, estimate that the annual rise in sea level from 3.14 mm recorded till the year 2000 increased to about 8 mm in 2010.

The delta consists of 102 low-lying islands of which 48 are inhabited. Nearly 4 million people in the Sundarbans coexist with 26 species of true mangroves, 234 species of birds and 47 species of mammals including the Royal Bengal tiger.

Experts point out that the islands and their ecosystems, including the human and animal communities, are under severe stress for want of natural resources and are highly vulnerable to changes in climate.

Climate change is leading to increased salinity and higher tidal surges, permanent submergence of land masses, experts said. Reports suggest that in the past two decades four islands (Bedford, Lohachara, Kabasgadi and Suparibhanga) were submerged and 6,000 families rendered homeless.

This apart, scientists from University of Calcutta and Jadavpur University have predicted that one of the largest islands (Sagar island) will lose at least 15 per cent of its habitat area by 2020.

Pachauri highlighted the need to strengthen mangrove plantations. "Dykes need to be set up at Sundarbans. It is one of the most important things to maintain biodiversity," he said. Dykes are natural or artificial slopes or walls to regulate water levels.

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