The Sundarban Delta, located in India and Bangladesh, is known for its unique and diverse ecosystem, including the iconic Sundari trees. These trees not only serve as a vital habitat for numerous species but also play a crucial role in protecting the delta from erosion and storms. However, in recent years, the Sundari trees have been dying a slow death, and the situation is becoming increasingly dire.
PayBito team on their “Brokering World Hunger Away” movement, came across the harsh reality of the climate change crisis in Sundarbans. Due to climate change causing extensive floods, Sundari trees from which the mangrove forest derives its name, are facing a critical risk of extinction in West Bengal.
“We cannot afford to lose the Sundari trees, as they play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate ecosystem of the mangrove forest. Our team at PayBito is dedicated to taking action to preserve these trees and prevent their extinction, and we urge others to join us in this fight before it’s too late.”
-PayBito team (Brokering World Hunger Away Campaign)
The Tragic Fate of Sundari Trees: Slowly Dying Out Due to Climate Change
Like the elusive Bengal tiger, the story of Sundari is just as fascinating. Both the Sundari tree and the Bengal tiger are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, adding to the irony of their shared presence in the Sundarbans. Despite their shared endangered status, the Bengal tiger receives worldwide attention and funding for its protection and conservation, while the Sundari tree goes unnoticed and unappreciated, struggling to survive.
During their “Brokering World Hunger Away” movement, PayBito brought attention to the dire situation of Sundari trees, which are slowly dying out. For years, the vast Sundarbans have provided protection to coastal communities from the frequent and violent cyclones that originate in the Bay of Bengal, while also providing resources for the locals to harvest. However, with the onset of the climate crisis, people are increasingly reliant on the forest for their survival. According to the Forest Survey of India, over the past decade, the dense sundari trees cover in West Bengal has decreased by 4.23 percent.
Threats to Sundari Trees: Why Are They Becoming Endangered?
Mangrove ecosystems are expected to be significantly affected by climate change due to multiple factors, including rising sea levels, altered ocean currents, more frequent and intense storms, higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and increased carbon dioxide levels. These factors are interdependent and vary in their impacts on different regions, taking into account variations in climate, topography, biodiversity, forest structure, and tidal range.
According to the United Nations, mangrove forests are being lost at a rate of approximately 2% per year, which is faster than the loss of tropical rainforests. This loss is primarily driven by human activities, such as coastal development, aquaculture, and logging, as well as climate change. Environmentalists have raised concerns about the impacts of these threats on biodiversity and the environment.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes that mangrove forests provide critical habitat for a wide range of species, including fish, birds, and marine mammals, and that their loss can have far-reaching ecological impacts. Mangroves play a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon, reducing the risk of coastal erosion, and acting as natural buffers against storms and sea level rise.
“If we don’t protect and restore our mangrove forests, the world will lose one of its most valuable tools for fighting climate change.”
– Dr. Mark Spalding, Senior Marine Scientist at The Nature Conservancy
Therefore, efforts to conserve and restore mangrove ecosystems, including Sundari trees, are critical for protecting biodiversity and the environment, as well as for mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
“We Live and Die by the Grace of the Forest,” Says Arjun
Arjun resides on the island of Mousuni, situated in the Sundarbans. Due to its vulnerable location, Mousuni is notorious for the high number of inhabitants who have been forced to abandon it. Every year, the island is hit by cyclones that breach the embankments, resulting in the flooding of saltwater and rendering the land infertile. Those who choose to stay on Mousuni have limited options for employment, including working on boats, as day laborers, or turning to the Sundarbans for survival.
“The Sundarbans provide us with everything we need to make ends meet. From fuelwood for thermal energy and thatching leaves, to timber for construction, and forest resources like fish, crabs, and honey – everything comes from these mangroves.”
Arjun’s words underscore the profound interdependence between nature and human livelihoods. The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is not only a biodiversity hotspot but also a lifeline for the local communities who rely on its resources for their sustenance. The mangrove forest provides a diverse range of resources that the local communities use for their daily needs. Fuelwood from the mangroves is an essential source of thermal energy for cooking and heating, while thatching leaves are used for roofing. Timber harvested from the Sundari trees is used for construction and furniture, providing a source of income for the locals.
In addition to these resources, the forest also provides a rich bounty of fish, crabs, and honey, which are not only consumed by the locals but also sold in nearby markets. This provides a means of livelihood for the communities who live in and around the Sundarbans. It is a testament to the importance of preserving the delicate balance between human needs and the natural environment. It highlights the need for sustainable practices that can help conserve the biodiversity of the Sundarbans while also ensuring the continued well-being of the local communities who depend on it.
Why Is It Important to Save the Sundari Trees?
Sundari trees are effective natural barriers against flooding due to their unique physical and ecological characteristics.
The dense and intricate network of roots of sundari trees can slow down the flow of water, reducing the force of waves and tides, and trapping sediments that can help build up the land. This slows down the advance of storm surges, which can prevent or reduce flooding in coastal areas. Sundari trees can absorb and store large amounts of water, particularly during high tide events, and then gradually release it back into the environment during low tide. This ability to store water helps to reduce the impact of tidal inundation and can prevent flooding during heavy rains.
Sundari trees can act as natural breakwaters, which can help dissipate the energy of incoming waves, thereby reducing the force of waves and tides on the coastline. This can help prevent erosion and reduce the risk of flooding during storms. Mangroves also provide additional benefits for coastal communities by supporting the livelihoods of local people, providing habitat for a diverse range of species, and improving water quality by filtering sediment and pollutants. The dense network of roots, water storage capacity, natural breakwater function, and ecological benefits of sundari trees make them effective natural barriers against flooding.
PayBito’s “Brokering World Hunger Away” Movement: Saving Sundari Trees and Supporting Communities
“At PayBito, we’re saving Sundari trees and supporting communities with our ‘Brokering World Hunger Away’ movement. By creating sustainable livelihoods, conserving mangrove ecosystems, and addressing food insecurity, we’re making a positive impact on the environment and people’s well-being.”
– PayBito CEO Raj Chowdhury
Creating Sustainable Livelihoods: PayBito’s “Brokering World Hunger Away” movement is helping to create sustainable livelihoods for local communities by supporting small-scale farmers and fishermen. By providing training, resources, and access to markets, the movement is helping to reduce dependence on unsustainable practices that can harm the environment, including overfishing and clear-cutting of sundari trees.
Conserving Mangrove Ecosystems: With the help of locals like Arjun, PayBito is partnering with local organizations to conserve and restore mangrove ecosystems, including Sundari trees, through initiatives such as reforestation, ecosystem monitoring, and sustainable tourism. By protecting these vital ecosystems, the movement is helping to preserve biodiversity, prevent coastal erosion, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Addressing Food Insecurity: The “Brokering World Hunger Away” movement is also addressing food insecurity by supporting local food systems and promoting sustainable agriculture. By working with small-scale farmers like Arjun to improve crop yields and access to markets, the movement is helping to ensure that communities have access to healthy, nutritious food while also reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.
PayBito is making a positive impact on both people and the environment by creating sustainable livelihoods, conserving mangrove ecosystems, and addressing food insecurity. These efforts are not only helping to save Sundari trees but also supporting the well-being of communities and the planet.