Umeployment blamed for Sudarbans tiger attacks

Six deaths in tiger attacks in six months in Sundarbans, unemployment a key reason

AFP file photo/Bangladesh forest department

Lack of employment opportunities is pushing fishermen in West Bengal’s Sundarban to the risky and often fatal business of catching crabs in the core areas of the tiger reserve as at least six persons perished due to tiger attacks in the last six months. Sources in the Forest Department said that majority of the fishermen enter the core area without permission from the state authorities.

According to locals the lucrative market price of crabs in the domestic and international market are pushing the fishermen to crab catching. They said that while a female crabs fetch them a handsome price of Rs 800 per kg male crabs sell at Rs. 600 per kg.

“Each fishermen earn about Rs. 35,000 in a two week long long trip of crab catching in the forest. This is far more profitable than fishing and that is the reason why take the risk,” said Mongal Sardar, a resident of Goasaba Block of in Sundarban.

The severity of the situation comes to the fore of one takes a look at the frequency of fatal tiger attacks in the last six months. Three fishermen fell victim to tiger attacks in between October 10 to October 17. Another such incident took place on November 23 followed by another fatal tiger attack on January 21.

Forest Department officials said that despite repeatedly cautioning fishermen and even imoposing hefty fines on them the trend of entering the core area for crab catching has not died down yet.

“Not only have we repeatedly cautioned the repeated fishermen not to enter the core area but we have imposed fines on them and even temporarily seized their boats for entering the core area without permission. But even them some are violating the restrictions and putting their lives in danger,” said Sudhir Chandra Das, Field Director of the Sundarban Tiger Reserve.

The terrain of the Sundarban makes it even more difficult for Forest Department officials to keep a vigil over fishermen entering the core area.

Local Panchayat officials said that even though a large number of fishermen were issued job cads under the MNREGS but they are more keen on cran catching due to more profit.