Planting Sunderbans: Shield against cyclones but obstacle for animals? | Calcutta News

KOLKATA: The state’s decision to create a natural barrier in Indian Sunderbans by developing mangroves appears to hamper the movement of animals in the forest.

Nets installed inside the Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary area to protect plantations after Cyclone Yaas are blocking wildlife paths. A deer was recently found entangled in such a net as it desperately tried to get to the other side of the forest.
In an effort to minimize the impact of cyclones and protect levees from waves during cyclones, the South 24 Parganas District Administration finalized plans earlier this year to plant more than 5 crore of mangrove plants and affected over 2,000 hectares of land in the Sunderbans for planting. The work was implemented by MGNREGA with the help of the forestry department.
Cyclones Amphan and Yaas hit the coast of Bengal in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Asked about the move, Anurag Danda, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said: “While it is good to take measures to reduce the impact of cyclones, we need to know if there are any plantations. needed in the forest. areas. Although these nets are placed to protect the young trees planted, it should also be ensured that nothing hinders the free movement of animals within the forest.
Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, a member of the state advisory board on wildlife and founder of the municipal NGO Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), said plantations were necessary but forest areas should be spared. “No tree should be cut or planted inside the forest. To protect the plantations, nets must be placed. But as soon as they are used inside the forest, they are doomed to hinder the movements of animals, ”he added.
The state’s chief game ranger, Debal Roy, said only 55 hectares were used in the Sunderbans forest area for this purpose. “This will be roughly less than five percent of the total land used for the project,” he added.
According to Danda, appropriate dialogue is needed to find an alternative so that forest lands remain outside the scope of such training. “Before 1990, the forestry department’s work plan provided for planting inside mangroves. But after that he was not allowed inside the forest. Also, this is an environmentally critical area, ”said Danda, also landscape coordinator for WWF-India’s Sunderbans program.
A former forester said the mud flats, where the saplings were planted, should never be disturbed. “They function like ecotones in the Sunderbans, like what meadows do in a dense, wooded forest. Besides wild animals, these mud flats are also used by wading birds such as the raven curlew, Eurasian curlew and common sandpiper, among others, and even by storks which frequent the water in search of food, ”he added. he declares.

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