Vil­lagers fear for sur­vival on dis­ap­pear­ing is­land

The Gulf Today - - ASIA -

GHORAMARA IS­LAND: Res­i­dents of In­dia’s Ghoramara Is­land want to leave their home as it shrinks each year due to ris­ing seas, but many say they can’t af­ford it.

The 4.6 sq km is­land, part of the Sun­dar­bans delta on the Bay of Ben­gal, has nearly halved in size over the past two decades, ac­cord­ing to vil­lage elders.

The tiny is­land is home to 4,800 peo­ple, down from 7,000 a decade ago.

“If a tsunami or a big cy­clone hits this is­land we will be in­ished,” said San­jib Sa­gar, vil­lage leader on the is­land 150 km south of the In­dian city of Kolkata.

The Sun­dar­bans, shared by In­dia and Bangladesh, in­clude the world’s largest man­grove for­est as well as rare or en­dan­gered tigers, dol­phins, birds and rep­tiles.

Ghoramara is among many is­lands in the delta af­fected by ris­ing sea lev­els and soil ero­sion ex­perts say is caused by cli­mate change.

Res­i­dents say the lood waters are get­ting worse, threat­en­ing their homes and liveli­hoods.

“If gov­ern­ment gives re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion I will leave,” said Sheikh Aftab Ud­din, sit­ting out­side his new mud house with his wife, af­ter his pre­vi­ous home was de­stroyed by lood waters.

Half of the vil­lagers are ready to move if the gov­ern­ment pro­vided free land in a safer area, Sa­gar said, but there has been no re­sponse to their re­quest for com­pen­sa­tion or to move peo­ple off the is­land.

Two peo­ple in the ofice of Javed Ahmed Khan, the min­is­ter in charge of dis­as­ter man­age­ment in the state gov­ern­ment of West Ben­gal, de­clined to com­ment on whether it had any plans to re­lo­cate in­hab­i­tants.

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