- Sundarbans is the largest Mangrove forest in the world shared between the countries of India and Bangladesh. Fourty percent of the area falls in the Indian region and sixty percent in the Bangladesh region.
- Indian side of Sundarbans measuring around 4000 sq. kms consists of 102 islands just 16 short of the number of islands in the city of Venice. Out of 102 islands of Indian sundarbans, 54 are inhabitated and 48 are forested. Still Indian Sundarban is around 10 times bigger than the city of Venice.
Mangroves in Sundarbans
- Waterways is the main mode of transportation from one island to the other. The highest fare I encountered for almost 2 hour boat ride was 6 rupees. For the average amount of money you travel from one to another island in Venice, you can travel around 50 islands for four continuous days in Sundarbans.
- Unlike most of the reserve forests, wildlife safari is done by ferries and boats in Indian Sundarbans however, on the Bangladesh side of Sundarbans, walking is possible and allowed in the reserve forests on wildlife safari.
Sundarbans Boat safari
- Sundarbans are named after a mangrove tree called “Sundari” which means beautiful.
Sundari tree, The tree Sundarbans is named after
- Gosaba is the biggest and the last inhabitated island on Indian Sundarbans part. After that dense reserve forests starts. This island is just at the elevation of 13 feet from the sea level. Even afte being isolated from the mainland, this island has its own local self-governance, government officials, schools, Panchayats, hospitals etc.
- There is a unique tidal phenomenon in the Sundarbans. Twice a day, Sundarbans experience low tides and high tides. During low tides, water recedes and large masses of mudlands can be seen lying flat and during high tides, water level rises by 6-10 feet.
- High tide makes it possible to explore more of the internal creeks because with more water in the channels, people can go depper into the forests. Sometimes, that’s why safari are conducted by the locals during the low tide when the water recedes and chances of seeing the wildlife increases because then can come to the river side in low water.
Sundarbans creek during low tides
- Cyclone Sidr, 2007 with wind speed of 220-250 kmph, impacted a lot on agricultral pattern of the sunderbans. A very high tide inundated the agricultural lands of Sundarbans with salty water and it took almost 2-3 years for the local villagers to do cropping again.
- They sustained mainly on fishing and local vegetable then with sheer scarcity of fresh waters too. Following the cyclone, now all the villages of Sundarbans have dikes to prevent the high tide waters from coming inside the village.
Flood dikes in Sundarbans around villages
- Except Gosaba island, the largest inhabitated island, none of the rest of the inhabitated islands of Indian Sundarbans have no cars. There are more number of Bicycles than motorbikes there. If you are still wondering about the waterways transportation then boats are used to transfer almost everything from one to another island like bikes, cycles, bricks, woods, etc.
- Being a chain of islands and not-so-easily accessible, Sundarbans is still comparetively denser than its counterparts. The population density is three times as much as population density of India.
- There is a village in Sundarbans called “Widow village” where most of the families have been attacked by the man eater tigers. Tigers always used to attack from behind. So, fishermen used to wear facemask at the back of the head to confuse the tiger still the tiger was cunning enough to figure that out and attack by the tigers continued.
- Main occupation of the locals of Sundarbans used to be Fishing, honey collection and agriculture. Tigers attack mostly happened during fishing in deep and dense creeks.
- No foreign tourist can stay for more than five days in SUndarbans. Otherwise, one needs special permit from the forest range officer to stay for longer.
- On a new moon night, on night safari one can see the phytoplanktons in the water. Phytoplanktons are the micro organisms which reflect light in the dark. Under the moonlight, it is difficult to see the phytoplanktons lights.
Phytoplantons on new moon night
- After giving birth to her cubs, a Sundarban tigress take them one by one to another island because a tiger might kill a cub in his territory. She has to swim across the whole river with high flow for that. Irrepective of the speed and direction of the flow, a tigress always swims in a straight line.
- When skewed from the straight line even by a single inch, she would then and there take a U-turn and try to swim across again. She will keep on trying until she does not cross the river in pure straight line and reach to her target without getting skewed.
- A Sundarban tiger had greater territory than tigree and under a tiger sometimes there would be around 3-4 tigresses.
Sundarbans lifestyle: Village, people & vegetation
- Sundarbans’ islands are formed by the deposition of the silts brought by the rivers in their last phases.
- Local people of Sundarbans mostly rely on three kinds of occupation: farming, fishing and honey collection. Men and women both share the agricultural occupation. Shallow water fishing is mostly done by the women and honey collection is mostly undertaken by the men in the core forests of Sundarbans.
- Due to cyclone Aila, Ph level of the Sundarbans soil changed harshly. Local people could not grow any vegetation, mainly paddy- the staple food, at all for next three years after the cyclone. Before that, people used to grow paddies twice a year. Productivity of the soil was totally annihilated and paddy fields were flooded with salty waters which took months to dry up and then further tens of months for natural replenishment.
- For fishing into the core zone forests of the Sundarbans, fishermen need to have special permission from the reserve forest office department. Most of the tiger attacks happened during fishing.
- After the cyclone, villagers made flood dikes around the villages along the backwaters channel to stop the high tide waters entering into the village.
- Agriculture is the prime source of money and staple food there. Apart from agriculture people pet cows, fouls, goats and fish.
- Houses are made up of mud, bamboos and thatches. There are no electricity and no roads. Roads
on these Sundarbans islands are paved with bricks which are made up of alluvial clay.
- Since mosquitos lay their eggs more on stagnant water, people use smoke to repel mosquitos from their huts.
- Besides farming and fishing, people also bake bricks, make new boats, farm mangoes and banana.
- People use waterways for all the purpose. Carrying across bricks, food, daily goods across islands.