Stealthily the destruction of the islands in the Sunderbans due to the rise in the sea level has created the first global-warming refugees. 7,000 inhabitants of the Lohachara Island, in the Ganga delta, have lost their homes and lands to the rising sea and have shifted to the Sagar Island to the north.
Sunderban, the largest delta of the world is slowly being wiped out as the sea level is rising. Two of Asia’s largest rivers, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra roll into the Bay of Bengal forming the world’s largest delta. The Mangrove forest in the region is home to a large number of plants and animals species who are now threatened with extinction following the destruction of the forest. One-third of the Sunderbans lies in India and two-thirds lie in Bangladesh. The rise in global temperature is steadily melting the Himalayan glaciers causing rise in the volume of the water in the rivers inundating the plains and finally flooding the Ganga delta, as the network of river channels empty their water in the sea.
With Lohachara Island being erased from the face of the earth, the angry tidal water is now engulfing Ghoramara Island, one mile to the east. A third of the Ghoramara land mass has already succumbed to the sea. The Sagar Island at present houses 20,000 refugees from the tide. As the sea level rises, the mangroves are overexposed to the salt water. This is adversely affecting the ecosystem of the Sunderbans. With rise in the salinity, the plants are losing their red and green colors becoming like bare twigs. This is destroying the wild life of the region especially the number of Royal Bengal Tigers is fast depleting. In the late 1960s, there were around 500 tigers but currently only 250 of the big cats remain, although the Indian Statistical Institute suggests that the number can be much lower. The tigers of the Sunderbans regularly swim between islands entering villages in search of food. This has escalated the woes of the islanders with over 50 people having been killed by tigers over the last five years.
If global warming continues unabated, this mighty mangrove forest with its huge treasure of wildlife will be lost forever from our planet.