Sundarbans

Sundarbans is the World's largest delta, famous for hosting the earth’s most extensive mangrove forest and home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The Sundarbans span the border between India and Bangladesh where the super confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers meet the sea. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing people living here and already devastating increased extreme weather events are being felt, destroying lives, homes and farmland.

The warmer the sea gets the more powerful the winds and extreme weather events become. The tempestuous cyclone Aila was the second tropical cyclone to form within the Northern Indian Ocean in 2009. On the 25th of May it hit the Sundarbans delta on the Bangladesh and India border with full force, breaching defence walls, flooding farmland and flattening homes. Hundreds of people where killed and more than 22 000 lost their homes to the sea. A year after the cyclone huge parts of once fertile agricultural land has turned in to wasteland, destroyed by saline ocean water.

The tropical storm Aila had formed by warm air and water vapour over the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal. During the last 100 years precipitation worldwide has increased by 20 percent. The occurrence of extreme weather events has risen dramatically in Asia during the last 60 years. The change in weather patterns is linked to higher water and air temperatures forming more vapour and clouds. The consequences look similar on all continents, heavier rains, storms and more extreme and ferocious cyclones. Rising sea surface temperatures has been identified as the leading cause. Extreme weather events and precipitation changes will most likely have a bigger impact on human society and ecosystems than actual changes in temperature. The warmer the sea gets the more powerful the winds and weather become.

Farmer Simon Pradhan stands on the Hooghly River shore. Mangrove forests that have been planted to protect the island from increased tidal surges and cyclonic weather have been destroyed in many places. Rising sea level, subsidence, heavy storms and people logging for fire wood unaware that these forests are their best natural defence are the main reasons.

Natural defenceIndustriousThreatened speciesEcological riceThreatened by loggingWorms and compostLunchbreakBetel leafA warningWater, the most precious resourceGrass from the tidal plainGrass for livestockGurupada Das, Sundarbans, IndiaImportant incomeDrought in the deltaWatching the potatoesRuined sea defenceBola MajhiLife by the seaSpecies nurseryProfessor ChoudhuryLow tideHigh tideCrossing to mainlandOcipodaCrossing to SagarIsmael KhanFixing the netsTending before schoolBreak time on the wallAll the communityFilling sand bagsFor the sea defence wallSack by sackCollecting mud at low tideBuilding with their bare handsTidal rangeStrong womenDeterminedSarswati Das, Sundarbans, IndiaShymali Das, Sundarbans, IndiaKanak Das, Sundarbans, IndiaBinu Das, Sundarbans, IndiaSunrise over parched landHoly riverGanga Sagar templeSri GabindaSonamani MalThe wall of hopeDrying riceDrying the rice harvestYesterday's landAnjali and her kittenEncroaching seaBuilding the wallBlock by blockInvolvedBlock by blockHeavy workThe whole familyBalancingSea barrierFrom factory to foundationSibshankar Mal, Sunderbans, IndiaMinu Sau, Sundarbans, IndiaLost homeStanding on the former wallCollecting wood