How much of the world population live near the coast
Around half (50%)
Tell me facts about the Sundarbans region
The Sundarbans region is in Bangladesh and India
- it’s in the southwest of Bangladesh and east India 🇮🇳, on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal.
Large parts of the region are protected as the national park /forest reserve
In its natural state, the coastal system is in dynamic equilibrium. Material is deposited by the rivers, allowing the growth of the mangrove forests. It is also eroded by the sea, so the size of the sediment store remains roughly the same.
Why are large parts of the region protected
Because a lot of the Sundarbans region is a national park/forest reserve. The region is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world.
What is Mangrove
Mangrove is a type of forest found in tropical areas. The trees are adapted to living in saltwater and grow on mud flats.
What is the topography like in the region
The land is very flat and very low lying. It is intersected by thousands of channels, many containing small Sandy or silty islands.
Tell me about the biodiversity of the region
The Sundarbans is home to many rare species of plants and animals, including orchids, white bellied sea eagles, royal Bengal tigers, and Irawadi dolphins.
What’s the population of the Sundarbans region
The region is home to more than 4 million people.
Tell me about the area providing a range of natural products that can be used by people or sold to bring economic benefits to the region
The flat, fertile land of the river deltas is ideal for growing crops, particularly rice
The rich ecosystem of the mangrove forest provides the local population with fish, crabs, honey and nipa palm leaves used for roofing and basket making.
The mangrove forests provide time for construction, firewood and furniture
What services for the people does the Sundarbans provide
The mangrove forest provides a natural defence against flooding - it acts as a barrier against rough seas and absorbs excess water in the rainy (monsoon) season. This makes it easier to live and grow crops.
The mangroves also protect the area against coastal erosion - their roots bind the soil together
What opportunities for the region are there to develop it and increase the wealth of Bangladesh as a whole
There are opportunities for tourism - visitors are attracted by the mangroves and wildlife
Since 2011, cargo ships transporting goods such as oil and food inland have been allowed to use the waterways. Some channels have been dredged to make passage easier for the ships.
A power plant has been proposed just north of the national park, providing energy for people in the region.
Tell me about the risk for occupation and development in the region involving the supply of water
There is a lack of fresh water for drinking and irrigation in much of the area. This is because fresh water is diverted from the rivers for irrigation of agricultural land further upstream.
Tell me a risk as a result of a growing population
The growing population has led to a need for more fuel and more agricultural land, so the mangrove forests are being removed. This increases the risk of flooding (eg during tropical cyclones) and coastal erosion.
Flooding can lead to salinisation (increased saltiness) of soil, making it hard to grow crops.
Tell me about the risks involving wildlife, topography and demographics
There are dangerous animals that attack humans, including tigers, sharks and crocodiles.
There is a lack of employment and income opportunities
The low lying land is at risk from rising sea levels due to global warming.
It is a relatively poor region, and only 1/5 of households have access to mains electricity. This makes communication by eg. Television and radio difficult, meaning the residents often don’t receive flood warnings.
Tell me about the risk about access
Access is difficult - there are few roads, and those that exist are of poor quality. This limits opportunities for development, and makes it harder for residents to receive goods, healthcare and education.
What are the three main ways people can respond to risks
Resilience, mitigation and adaptation
What does resilience mean
Resilience means being able to cope with the challenges the environment presents
Tell me about the attempts to increase the populations resilience
The Public Health Engineering Department is increasing access to clean water and sanitation. This will improve health and quality of life.
Better roads and better bridges are being built in the region, improving access for residents and visitors. However, this can lead to deforestation and other environmental change.
Mains electricity is being extended to more areas, and subsidised solar panels are being made available in remote villages to allow them to generate their own power. This will make it easier for flood warnings to reach communities, and could create employment opportunities.
There are efforts to decrease poverty and increase food security in the region, for example by providing farming subsidies to increase food production and provide jobs. However, there is a risk that some areas of land may be farmed too intensively, causing environmental damage.
Some NGOs are offering training in sustainable methods of fishing and farming, to help prevent environmental damage from over exploitation or poor practices
What is mitigation
Mitigation means reducing the severity of hazards or other problems
Tell me some methods of mitigation in the Sundarbans region
3500km of embankments were built to prevent flooding. However, the embankments are gradually being eroded, and around 800km are vulnerable to being breached during storms and tsunamis.
Coastal management projects aim to protect existing mangrove forests and replant areas that have been removed, to protect against flooding and erosion. However, it is difficult to prevent illegal forest clearance throughout the region, and it is unclear whether the mangroves will withstand sea level rise.
There are attempts to mitigate the impacts of extreme events eg cyclones, for example, the government and NGOs have provided funding for cyclone shelters and early warning systems, which should help people shelter or evacuate. However, many may not have the transport available to enable them to evacuate quickly.
What does adaptation mean
Adaptation means adjusting behaviour to fit the environment. As the environment of the Sundarbans changes (due to climate change and sea level rise), people will need to adapt to it to reduce risks and increase benefits.
Tell me some examples of adaptation in the region
In some areas, salt resistant varieties of rice are being grown - this could help residents cope with flooding and sea level rise. However, relying on a smaller range of crops can reduce biodiversity and may increase vulnerability to pests and diseases.
Projects are underway to increase tourism to the area, providing jobs and income. For example, lodges have been built and tour operators run boat trips on the rivers. However, if not properly managed, tourism can cause environmental damage.
People can adapt to sea level rise or flooding eg by building houses on stilts. However, infrastructure such as roads cannot be protected so easily.
Sustainable adaptations eg using non intensive farming practices and promoting ecotourism, will help ensure that the fragile environment remains relatively undamaged and usable for future generations.