THE SUNDARBANS

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world largest mangrove forest
The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world

                                                        THE SUNDARBANS

                                 (WORLD HERITAGE LISTED IN BANGLADESH)

THE SUNDARBANS

The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world (140,000 ha), lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans World Heritage site inscribed in 1987.

The site is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, and presents an excellent example of ongoing ecological processes. The area is known for its wide range of fauna, including 260 bird species, the Bengal tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python.

  • The name Sundorbans can be literally translated as “beautiful forest” in the Bengoli language (shundar “beautiful” and bon “forest”).
  • The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees (the mangrove species Heritiera fomes) that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers. Alternatively, it has been proposed that the name is a corruption of Samudraban, Shomudrobôn (“Sea Forest”), or Chandra-bandhe (name of a primitive tribe).
  • However, the generally accepted view is the one associated with Sundari or Sundri trees. The history of the area can be traced back to 200–300 AD. A ruin of a city built by a Chand Sadagar has been found in the Baghmara Forest Block.
  • During the Mughal period, the Mughal Kings leased the forests of the Sundarbans to nearby residents. Many criminals took refuge in the Sundarbans from the advancing armies of Emperor Akbar.

  • Many have been known to be attacked by tigers.  Many of the buildings which were built by them later fell to hands of Portuguese pirates, salt smugglers and dacoits in the 17th century. Evidence of the fact can be traced from the ruins at Netidhopani and other places scattered all over Sundarbans.
  • The legal status of the forests underwent a series of changes, including the distinction of being the first mangroves forest in the world to be brought under scientific management.
  • The area was mapped first in Persian, by the Surveyor general as early as 1764 following soon after proprietary rights were obtained from the Mughal Emperor Alamgir II by the British East India company in 1757.
  • Systematic management of this forest tract started in the 1860s after the establishment of a Forest Department in the Province of Bengal, in British India.
  • The management was entirely designed to extract whatever treasures were available, but labour and lower management mostly were staffed by locals, as the British had no expertise or adaptation experience in mangrove forests.

The first Forest Management Division to have jurisdiction over the Sundarbans was established in 1869.

In 1875 a large portion of the mangrove forests was declared as reserved forests under the Forest Act, 1865 (Act VIII of 1865).

The remaining portions of the forests were declared a reserve forest the following year and the forest, which was so far administered by the civil administration district, was placed under the control of the Forest Department.

A Forest Division. which is the basic forest management and administration unit, was created in 1879 with the headquarters in Khulna, Bangladesh. The first management plan was written for the period 1893–98.

In 1911, it was described as a tract of waste country which had never been surveyed nor had the census been extended to it. It then stretched for about 266 kilometres (165 mi) from the mouth of the Hugli to the mouth of the Meghna river and was bordered inland by the three settled districts of the 24 Paragana, Khulna and Bakergonj.

The total area (including water) was estimated at 16,900 square kilometres (6,526 sq mi). It was a water-logged jungle, in which tigers and other wild beasts abounded. Attempts at reclamation had not been very successful.

The Sundarbans was everywhere intersected by river channels and creeks, some of which afforded water communication throughout the Bengal region both for steamers and for native ships.

The Sundorbans have –

SUNDARBANS DEER

Sundarban is the natural habitat of the world’s Royal Bengal Tiger and spotted Deer.Deer is very common in the Soundarbans. It is one of the most beautiful dear in the world. They like to live in flock. In a flock there are 10-25 deer live together. Mostly they live in grassy forest. The main enemy of them is Royal Bangle tiger, which is only found in the Sundarban.

HONEY (madhu) OF SUNDARBANS

Honey (madhu) sweet, viscid fluid produced by bees from the nectar collected from flowers, and stored in their nests or hives as food. Honey is classified according to origin as blossom and honey-due-honey and by processing mode as comb, extracted or pressed-honey. The colour, taste and odour of honey depend on the type of nectar the bees collect.

The main constituent chemicals of honey are levulose (fructose) and dextrose (glucose); other chemicals are sucrose, protein, K, P, Mn, Na, Mg, Ca, Fe, Al, Cu, Cl, S, Vitamin A, B, C, K and E. The caloric value of honey is about 3,040 calorie/kg. Honey is highly priced and has a wide range of use as food and medicine.

These are mostly unifloral honey of goran type and golpata type. The other unifloral honey of the Sundarbans is khalshi type; it is very high priced due to its high quality. The second important unifloral honey is mustard-type, mango-type, and Indian jujube-type. Other

honey of both wild and culture is the coconut, onion and litchi type. Most of the honey is collected from December to June but the peak period for collections is February to April. Honey is collected by pressing or squeezing the comb. Blotting and blending of honey is done manually. About 109 m tons of honey was collected from forest sources in 1995-96.

The world production of honey is about 1,500,000 m tons. China is the major producer (about 25%);Germany is the highest consumer (1.8 kg/capita). The percapita consumption of honey in India is about 9 g; it is only about 2 g in Bangladesh. Honey is traditionally consumed as table honey or as medicine.

Sundarbans Mangroves

The Sunderbans are a part of the world’s largest delta, formed by the mighty rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of Gangetic West Bengal, the Sunderbans is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries. It is one of the most attractive and alluring places remaining on earth, a truly undiscovered paradise.

The Sunderbans is the largest single block of tidal, halophytic mangrove forests in the world. The name can be literally translated as beautiful jungle. The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in the Sunderbans. The Sunderbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Tourism numbers remain relatively low due to the difficult access, arranging transport and a lack of facilities including suitable accommodation. Mass tourism and its impacts are unlikely to affect the values of the property.
  • While the legal protection afforded the property prohibit a number of activities within the boundaries illegal hunting, timber extraction and agricultural encroachment pose potential threats to the values of the property.
  • Storms, cyclones and tidal surges up to 7.5 m high, while features of the areas, also pose a potential threat with possible increased frequency as a result of climate change.

Protection and management requirements

The property is composed of three wildlife sanctuaries and has a history of effective national legal protection for its land, forest and aquatic environment since the early 19th century.

All three wildlife sanctuaries were established in 1977 under the Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act, 1974, having first been gazetted as forest reserves in 1878.

Along with the Forest Act, 1927, the Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act 1974, control activities such as entry, movement, fishing, hunting and extraction of forest produces.

A number of field stations established within Sundarbans West assist in providing facilities for management staff. There are no recognised local rights within the reserved forest with entry and collection of forest products subject to permits issued by the Forest Department.

The property is currently well managed and regularly monitored by established management norms, regular staff and individual administrative units. The key objective of management is to manage the property to retain the biodiversity, aesthetic values and integrity.

A delicate balance is needed to maintain and facilitate the ecological process of the property on a sustainable basis. Another key management priority is the maintenance of ongoing ecological and hydrological process which could otherwise be threatened by ongoing developmental activities outside the property.

  • Subject to a series of successively more comprehensive management plans since its declaration as reserved forest, a focus point of many of these plans is the management of tigers, together with other widlife, as an integral part of forest management that ensures the sustainable harvesting of forest products while maintaining the coastal zone in a way that meets the needs of the local human population.
  • The working plans for the Sundarbans demonstrate a progressive increase in the understanding of the management requirements and the complexity of prescriptions made to meet them.

Considerable research has been conducted on the Sundarbans wildlife and ecosystem. International input and assistance from WWF and the National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian Institution as well as other organisations has assisted with the development of working plans for the property, focusing on conservation and management of wildlife.

The Sundarbans provides sustainable livelihoods for millions of people in the vicinity of the site and acts as a shelter belt to protect the people from storms, cyclones, tidal surges, sea water seepage and intrusion. The area provides livelihood in certain seasons for large numbers of people living in small villages surrounding the property, working variously as wood-cutters, fisherman, honey gatherers, leaves and grass gatherers.

Predators

See also: Tiger attack on the sundarbans

A Bengal tiger from Sundarbans

A saltwater crocodile in Sundarbans

The fertile soils of the delta have been subject to intensive human use for centuries, and the ecoregion has been mostly converted to intensive agriculture, with few enclaves of forest remaining. The remaining forests, together with the Sundarbans mangroves, are important habitats for the endangered Bengal tiger The forest also contains leopard and other smaller predators such as the jungle cats (Felis chaus), fishing cats, and leopard cats .

Several predators dwell in the labyrinth of channels, branches and roots that poke up into the air. This is the only mangrove ecoregion that harbours the Indo-Pacific region’s largest terrestrial predator, the Bengal tiger.

Unlike in other habitats, tigers live here and swim among the mangrove islands, where they hunt scarce prey such as the chital deer (axis axis), Indian muntijacs , wild boards , and evenrhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta).

It is estimated that there are now 180 Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area. The tigers regularly attack and kill humans who venture into the forest, human deaths ranging from 30–100 per year.

Some reptiles are predators too, including two species of crocodiles, theSoltwater crocodile  and mugger crocodile , as well as the Gharial and the Water monitor lizards all of which hunt on both land and water. Sharks and the ganjetics dolphins roam the waterways.

 

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