Either of the expansion of conventional agriculture in the community development block or the development of the forest by itself can not exclusively address the problems of Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve (SBR). Only the development of fringe areas can claim to have a solution for the development of SBR. This is because the total character of the ecosystem of Sunderbans is reflected in these areas, because the flora, fauna including human component of the fringe areas have originated either from the forest part or the habitat part of the biosphere.
Sunderbans – its geographical perspectives:
The Sunderbans, covering some 10,000 sq. Km of mangrove forest and water, is part of the world’s largest delta (˜80,000 sq. Km) formed from sediments deposited by three great rivers viz. the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which converge on the Bay of Bengal. About 40 percent of the whole Sunderbans lies in India and the rest fall in Bangladesh.
Sunderbans – its geological perspectives:
The whole Sunderbans area is intersected by an intricate network of interconnecting waterways, of which the larger channels are often a mile or more in width and run in a north-south direction. These waterways carry little freshwater as they are mostly cut-off from the Hooghly-Bhagirathi channels progressively eastwards since the seventeenth century. This is due to subsidence of the Bengal Basin and a gradual tilting of the overlying crust. In the Indian Sunderbans, the western portion receives some freshwater through Bhagirathi-Hooghly River System, but that portion is designated as the tiger reserve and is essentially land-locked and also its rivers are almost completely cut-off from the main freshwater sources over the last 600 years.
Sunderbans – its hydrological perspectives:
About half of the Sunderbans is under water and rest of the landscape is characterized by low-lying alluvial islands and mud-banks with sandy beaches and dunes along the coast. As with the rest of the Bengal Plain alluvial deposites are geologically very recent and deep sediments of just the last few million years which is as much as 1000 M thick. The subsoil consists of alternate layers of clay and sand, gradually changing into shale and sandstones. The soil is clayey loam down to a depth of 1.1 to 1.4 M and thereafter stiff black clay. It is alkaline due to excess sodium chloride. An estimation of land loss and accretion has been done using remote sensing (WCMC, 1998). It has been found that degree of salinity of the surface waterbodies including rivers and channels effectively influence the water quality of groundwater (Dhara et. al., 1991).
Waterways in the tiger reserve, thus, are maintained largely by the diurnal tidal flow, the average rise and fall being about 2.15 M on the coast and may be up to 5.68 M near the islands. Tidal waves are regular phenomena which may be up to 75 M high. The land is constantly being changed, moulded and shaped by action of the tides. Erosional processes are prominent along estuaries and depositional processes can be traced along the banks of inner estuarine waterways influenced by the accelerated discharge of silt from tidal rivers.
Fringe areas in the Sunderbans
Geographically the fringe area is a zone comprising estuarine part extending up to periphery of the biosphere reserve. However, while the people, mostly marginal, in the fringe areas are dependent on the forest-estuarine zone, they have links with the villages which have distinct Jurisdiction List No. (J.L. No.)s in specific mauzas under sixteen police stations in the Sunderbans. Therefore, fringe areas should also conceptually include the mauzas (the village clusters) at the border of the developing areas under the community development (CD) blocks and those extend up to the periphery of the biosphere reserves.
Economic importance of SBR and Fringe Areas
Mangrove – the major portion of SBR is mangrove forest
|Forest based products– Honey
– Bee wax
Estuaries and fallows
Fishery, prawn culture and crab culture
Agriculture and agro-based activities
|Farm System Management
– System of Rice Intensification (SRI)
Palm and Gur (jaggery) making industry
Eucalyptus oil, scented grass oil extraction
Allied small scale processing industry
Dry fish production
Fish and poultry feeds manufacturing industry
Domestic animal husbandry
– Black Bengal goat
to be continued…
June 06, 2012
Significance of fringe area and its people in forest villages as a development alternative
People, mostly economically marginal with marginal landholdings, of the fringe areas of the Sunderbans are dependent on the forest as a source of resources of their livelihoods and thereby they are dependent on the habitation part for their marketing and other day-to-day livelihood activities.
These marginal people also play the key role through their inherent expertise for harvesting economic produce from deep forest areas; otherwise forest has no worldly meaning for people in the villages in habitation area and urban areas.
Also, we become able to venture the forest for tourism, scientific survey or harvesting of forest products with the help of the guidance from these nature-gifted people, inhabiting the forest villages in the fringe areas of the Sunderbans.
In this regard, fringe areas and forest villages form one of the major components of the ecological order in the Sunderbans, and these villages play the pivotal role in the sustenance of Sunderban Biosphere Reserve (SBR).
As such fringe areas or forest villages and SBR are inseparable which needs special attention for alternative development ultimately aiming at the sustainable development management of Sunderban Biosphere Reserve.
to be continued….