Sundarbans National Park
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সুন্দরবন জাতীয় উদ্যান
• 7 metres (23 ft)
• PrecipitationTemperature • Summer • Winter
• 1,920 mm (76 in) • 34 °C (93 °F) • 20 °C (68 °F)
The Sundarbans National Park (Bengali: সুন্দরবন জাতীয় উদ্যান Shundorbôn Jatio Uddan) is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve located in the Sundarbans delta in the Indian state of West Bengal. This region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.
In 1911, it was described as a tract of waste country which had never been surveyed, nor had the census been extended to it. It then stretched for about 165 miles (266 km) from the mouth of the Hugli to the mouth of the Meghna, and was bordered inland by the three settled districts of the Twenty-four Parganas, Khulna and Backergunje. The total area (including water) was estimated at 6,526 square miles (16,902 km2).
The present Sundarbans National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. On May 4, 1984 it was declared a National Park. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987. Whole Sundarbans area was declared as Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
This satellite image shows the forest in the protected area. The Sundarbans appears deep green, surrounded to the north by a landscape of agricultural lands, which appear lighter green, towns, which appear tan, and streams, which are bl|A map of the protected areas of the Indian Sunderbans, showing the boundaries of the Tiger Reserve, the National Park and the three Wildlife Sanctuaries, conservation and lodging centers, subsistence towns, and access points. The entire forested (dark green) area constitutes the Biosphere Reserve, with the remaining forests outside the national park and wildlife sanctuaries being given the status of a Reserve Forest.
Sundarbans National Park is located in between 30° 24' - 30° 28' N longitude and between 77° 40' - 77° 44' E latitude in the South 24 Parganas district in the Indian state of West Bengal. The average altitude of the park is 7.5 m above sea level. The park is made up of 54 small islands and is crisscrossed by several distributaries of the Ganges.
Sundarbans National Park is the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world. Twenty-six of the fifty broad mangrove types found in the world grow well in the Sundarbans. The commonly identifiable vegetation that grow in the dense mangrove forests at the Sundarbans are salt water mixed forest, mangrove scrub, brackish water mixed forest, littoral forest, wet forest and wet alluvial grass forests.
Rivers in the Sundarbans are meeting places of salt water and freshwater. Thus, it is a region of transition between the freshwater of the rivers originating from the Ganges and the saline water of the Bay of Bengal (Wahid et al.. 2002).
The Sundarbans along the Bay of Bengal has evolved through natural deposition of upstream sediments accompanied by intertidal segregation. The physiography is dominated by deltaic formations that include innumerable drainage lines associated with surface and subaqueous levees, splays and tidal flats. There are also marginal marshes above mean tide level, tidal sandbars and islands with their networks of tidal channels, subaqueous distal bars and proto-delta clays and silt sediments. The Sundarbans' floor varies from 0.9 m to 2.11 m above sea level.
Biotic factors here play a significant role in physical coastal evolution and for wildlife a variety of habitats have developed including beaches, estuaries, permanent and semi-permanent swamps, tidal flats, tidal creeks, coastal dunes, back dunes and levees. The mangrove vegetation itself assists in the formation of new landmass and the intertidal vegetation plays an important role in swamp morphology. The activities of mangrove fauna in the intertidal mudflats develop micromorphological features that trap and hold sediments to create a substratum for mangrove seeds. The morphology and evolution of the eolian dunes is controlled by an abundance of xerophytic and halophytic plants. Creepers, grasses and sedges stabilize sand dunes and uncompacted sediments.
Sundarban is the largest delta in India. The Sundarbans are a part of the world's largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. They are vast tract of forest and saltwater swamp forming the lower part of the Ganges Delta, extending about 260 km along the Bay of Bengal from the Hooghly River Estuary in India to the Meghna River Estuary in Bangladesh. Sunderban covers an area of 4262 km2 in India.
Sunderban is a unique ecosystem dominated by mangrove forests and gets its name from the Sundari trees. Sunderban is spread two countries. It is one of the last preserves of the Bengal tiger and the site of a major tiger preservation project.
The average maximum and minimum temperature is 34 °C and 20 °C respectively. Rainfall is heavy with high humidity as high as 80% as it is close to the Bay of Bengal. The monsoon lasts from mid-June to mid-September. Prevailing wind is from the north and north-east from October to mid-March and south west westerlies prevails from mid-March to September. Storms which sometimes develop into cyclones are common during the month of May and October.
The Directorate of Forest of the Government of West Bengal is responsible for the administration and management of Sundarbans, which is headquartered at Canning. The principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife & Bio-Diversity & ex-officio Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal is the senior most executive officer looking over the administration of the park. The Chief Conservator of Forests (South) & Director, Sundarban Biosphere Reserve is the administrative head of the park at the local level. He is assisted by a Deputy Field Director and an Assistant Field Director. The park area is divided into two ranges, overseen by range forest officers. Each range is further sub-divided into beats.
The park also has some floating watch stations and camps to protect the property from poachers. The park receives financial aid from the State Government as well as the Ministry of Environment and Forests of Government of India under various Plan and Non-Plan Budgets. Additional funding is received under the Project Tiger from the Central Government. In 2001, a grant of US$ 20,000 was received as a preparatory assistance for promotion between India and Bangladesh from the World Heritage Fund.
There are seven main rivers and innumerable watercourses forming a network of channels at this estuarine delta. All the rivers have a southward course towards the sea. The eco-geography of this area is totally dependent on the tidal effect of two flow tides and two ebb tides occurring within 24 hours with a tidal range of 3-5m and up to 8m (Ghosh & Mandal, 1989; Banerjee, 1998) in normal spring tide, inundating the whole of Sunderbans in varying depths. The tidal action deposits silts back on the channels and raising the bed, it forms new islands and creeks contributing to uncertain geomorphology (Bhattacharya, 1989). There is a great natural depression called “Swatch of No Ground” in the Bay of Bengal between 210 to 21022’ latitude where, the depth of water changes suddenly from 20m to 500m (Fergusson, 1963; Ghosh & Mandal, 1989). This mysterious depression pushes back the silts towards south and/or further east to form new islands.
The Sunderbans mudflats (Banerjee, 1998) are found at the estuary and on the deltaic islands where low velocity of river and tidal current occurs. The flats are exposed in low tides and submerged in high tides, thus being changed morphologically even in one tidal cycle. The interiorparts of the mudflats are magnificent home of luxuriant mangroves.
AbstractThe coastal active delta of Sunderbans at the mouth of Bay of Bengal in India, having a complex geomorphologic and hydrological character with climatic hazards, has a vast area of mangroveforests with a variety of flora and diverse fauna in a unique ecosystem. The natural environment and coastal ecosystem of this Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site is under threat of physical disaster due to unscientific and excessive human interferences. Conservation andenvironmental management plan for safeguarding this unique coastal ecology and ecosystem is urgently required!
The mangrove vegetation of Sundarbans consists of 64 plant species and they have the capacity to withstand estuarine conditions and saline inundation on account of tidal effects. In the month of April and May the flaming red leaves of the Genwa (Excoecaria agallocha) the crab-like red flowers of the Kankra (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) and the yellow flowers of Khalsi can be seen, which add a beauty to the surroundings. Some of the other commonly found plants and trees in the park are Dhundal, Passur (Xylocarpus mekongensis, Garjan (Rhizophora spp.), Sundari (Heritiera fomes) and Goran (Ceriops decandra).
The Sundarbans forest is home to more than 400 tigers. The Royal Bengal Tigers have developed a unique characteristic of swimming in the saline waters, and are world famous for their man-eating tendencies.
Apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger; Fishing Cats, Macaques, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Fox, Jungle Cat, Flying Fox, Pangolin, Chital, are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans.
Some of the more popular birds found in this region are openbill storks, black-headed ibis, Water Hens, Coots, Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Pariah Kites, Brahminy Kite, Marsh Harriers, Swamp Partridges, Red Junglefowls, Spotted Doves, Common Mynahs, Jungle Crows, Jungle Babblers, Cotton Teals, Herring Gulls, Caspian Terns, Gray Herons, brahminy ducks, Spot-billed Pelicans, Large Egrets, Night Herons, Common Snipes, Wood Sandpipers, Green Pigeons, Rose Ringed Parakeets, paradise-flycatchers, cormorants, Fishing Eagles, White-bellied Sea Eagles, Seagulls, Common Kingfishers, Peregrine falcons, Woodpeckers, Whimbrels, Black-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Eastern Knots, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Northern Pintails, White Eyed Pochards and Whistling Teals.
Some of the fish and amphibians found in the park are Sawfish, Butter Fish, Electric rays, Silver carp, Star Fish, Common Carp, King Crabs, Prawn, Shrimps, Gangetic Dolphins, Skipping Frogs, Common Toads and Tree Frogs.
The Sundarbans National Park houses an excellent number of reptiles as well, including estuarine crocodiles, chameleons, water monitors, Hard Shelled Batgun Terrapins, Mouse Ghekos, monitor lizards, and Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman; turtles, including Olive Ridley, hawksbill, and green turtles; and snakes including pythons, King Cobras, rat snakes, Russell's vipers, Dog Faced Water Snakes, Chequered Killbacks, and Common Kraits.
The endangered species that lives within the Sundarbans are Royal Bengal Tiger, Estuarian Crocodile, River Terrapin (Batagur baska), Olive Ridley Turtle, Gangetic dolphin, Ground Turtle, Hawks Bill Turtle and King Crabs (Horse shoe).
The park has got protection since its creation. The core area is free from all human disturbances like collection of wood, honey, fishing and other forest produces. However, in buffer area fishing, honey collection and wood cutting are permitted in limited form. Protection of the park from poaching and theft of forest products is done by well armed forest staffs who patrols in motorboats and launches. Moreover forest offices and camps are located at several important parts of the park. Anti-poaching camps are manned by 2 to 3 knowledgeable labourers under supervision of concerned beat guard/Forester/Range officer.
Habitat of wildlife is well maintained through eco-conservation, eco-development, training, education and research. 10 Forest Protection Committees and 14 Eco-development Committees have been formed in the fringe of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve helps in this regard. Seminars, workshops, awareness camps, etc. are organised frequently in the vicinity of park to educate the people on eco-conservation, eco-development and such other issues. Mangrove and other plants are planted in the fringe area to meet the local need of fuel wood for about 1000 villages and to conserve the buffer area. Conservation of soil is done to maintain the ecological balance. Several sweet water ponds have been dug up inside the park to provide drinking water to the wild animals.
Controlling man-eating tigers is another major activity. The number of casualties has been reduced from 40 to 10 per year. The reduction in number of casualties is a result of strict control over the movement of the people inside the tiger reserve, alternative income generation and awareness building among people. It is also believed that due to use of human masks and electric human dummies the tigers will stay away from the people. Straying of tigers into nearby villages is prevented through effective measures like nylon net fencing, solar illumination of villages, etc. The youths of the villages are given training in controlling the straying of tigers into the villages.
The Mangrove Interpretation Centre is established at Sajnekhali to make the local people and tourists aware about importance of conservation of nature in general and specially the mangrove eco-systems.
Though there is tough protection in the park there are a few loopholes. The geographical topography with hostile terrain criss-crossed by several rivers and their tributaries, long international border with Bangladesh, fishing trawlers and launches helps in poaching, cutting of wood and also affecting the mangrove forests. Lack of staffs, infrastructure and lack of funds also added up the factors.
The best and only means of travelling the park is to hire a boat and float down the various lanes formed by the many flowing rivers. You can travel in any of the local boats or in luxury launches namely M.V. Chitrarekha and M.V. Madhukar, which are operated by the tourism department.
Apart from viewing the wildlife from the boat safaris, you can also visit the following places in Sundarbans which are Bhagatpur Crocodile Project which is a crocodile breeding farm (access from Namkhana), Sagar Island, Jambudweep, Sudhanyakali watchtower, Buriidabri Tiger Project, Netidhopani Watchtower, Haliday Island (famous for Barking Deer), Kanak (nesting place of Olive Ridley Turtle), Sajankhali Bird Sanctuary (famous for avian fauna).
Forest lodge and forest rest-houses are available for accommodation at Sajnekhali, Bakkhali and Piyali. The cruise launches MV Chitralekha and MV Sarbajaya also have lodging facility.
Lodging facilities are also available at Sundarbans Jungle Camp on Bali Island run by Help Tourism Group with collaboration with local communities and members of Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society.
The ideal time to visit the park is between November and February, when the tigers can be seen on the river banks sunbathing.
Entry Permits: The foreign tourists who wants to visit the tiger projects and the Sajnekhali, have to obtain special permits for entry into the Sundarbans National Park. Tourists should contact the Secretary, West Bengal Forest Department, Writer's Building, Kolkata - 700001. To obtain the entry permit for other areas of the Sundarban, the tourists must visit the Field Director, Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, PO Canning, District 24 Parganas, West Bengal. However, a boat cruise through Sunderbans outside the sanctuary requires no entry permit.
Sunderban mangroves form part of the sub-continent’s largest mangrove system with a tiger population in a distinct ecological setting. These forests have salt water crocodiles, estuarine and marine turtles and a number of bird species. Besides tiger, the reserve has fishing cat, spotted deer, rhesus monkey and wild pigs.
Area details of Sunderbans Tiger Reserve
Sunderbans landscape is continuous with the mangrove habitat in Bangladesh.
Ecological services: On an average 500 quintals of honey and 30 quintals of wax are collected each year by local people under licence from Forest Department (buffer area).
The habitat is traversed by many narrow tidal channels forming small to large islands. Tigers readily cross these islands and man-tiger interface conflicts are common.
The Sunderbans are isolated with no forest connection to other tiger occupied main land. Hence, there is heavy biotic pressure for forest resources.
The estimation of tiger population in Sunderbans, as a part of the all India tiger estimation using the refined methodology, could not be carried out owing to the unique habitat and obliteration of evidences due to high / low tides. Phase-I data collection has been completed and process is on for tiger estimation using a combination of radio telemetry and pugmark deposition rate from known tigers.
It has been reported that the cyclone ‘AILA’ struck Sunderbans on 25.5.2009, causing damage to field camps and fringe villages bordering the said reserve. The breaches in the embankments on the village side have caused large scale flooding, leaving lakhs of people marooned in the area. The field camps were under 12 to 15 feet of water for around 7 hours, resulting in soil erosion and damage to staff quarters, generators and bamboo pilling. There has been a report of a tiger straying inside an abandoned cattle shed in a village, which was captured and released back in the wild. No tiger death has been reported, apart from mortality of two spotted deer. It is learnt that several NGOs have also been involved in the relief operation.
Based on an advisory sent from this end, the Forest Department of the State has constituted a Committee and has assessed a damage of almost Rs. 111.50 lakhs. Central assistance amounting to Rs. 1 crore under Project Tiger has been provided to the State for restoring the damage done to infrastructure.
(i) Man-tiger conflict due to frequent straying of tiger.
(ii) Tiger Estimation using the refined method not yet completed.
(iii) Tiger Conservation Plan awaited.
(iv) Constitution of the State level Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of the Chief Minister is awaited (Statutory requirement).
(v) Constitution of reserve-specific Tiger Conservation Foundation is awaited.
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