Islanders are fighting a losing battle

Coastal erosion at Ghoramara island, Sunderbans. Photo by Bhaskar Mallick

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which has predicted a severe risk of flooding due to rising sea levels has served as a reminder to the ongoing plight of the residents of three Sundarbans islands— Sagar, Mousuni and Ghoramara. 

According to a study conducted jointly by the University of Exeter and the Jadavpur University published in 2018, the landmass of the Ghoramara island reduced by over 70% since the 1920s due to coastal erosion. The study titled Political economy of planned relocation: A model of action and inaction in government responses states, “Coastal erosion has reduced the landmass of one island (Ghoramara) by about 70% since the 1920s, with its neighbour Lohachara island lost to erosion in the Hooghly river in 1991.” 

The report states that the nearby Sagar island is getting eroded at an annual rate of 2.18% of landmass. 

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“The land loss has been attributed to flooding, cyclone activity, mangrove loss and sea-level rise, with climate change expected to play a greater role in the future,” states the study.

According to another study conducted by researchers of Jadavpur University in Kolkata, the Ghoramara island in the Sundarbans archipelago has been reduced from 8.51 sq km in 1975 to 4.43 sq km in 2012 due to coastal erosion.

The study Island Erosion and Affiliated Population: Crisis and Policies to Handle Climate Change states that the erosion in the Sundarbans showed a sharp increase from 1975 to 1990. “...In this period, Lohachara, Suparibhanga and Bedford Islands submerged along with the Khasimara, Khasimara Char, Lakshmi Narayanpur, Bagpara, Baishnabpara villages of Ghoramara,” stated the 2014 research paper.

Severe coastal erosion due to sea-level rise has resulted in large-scale migration from Ghoramara.

Pointing out that there is no official data regarding migration, the study states that according to most residents of the island around 4,000 people have migrated from there.

Seikh Diljan, a resident of Ghormara, told DH that the earthen embankment constructed by the government is grossly inadequate to prevent seawater from entering the island.

Sea-level rise has a severe impact on the livelihoods of people. Salinisation of soil has wreaked havoc on agriculture. It has also impacted the fisheries activity on the island.

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