Sunderban Lifeline – provide alternative livelihood to 450 families in Sunderban forest fringe villages

Sundarban, the largest mangrove delta of the world is the only mangrove forest of the world having largest floral and faunal diversity that houses the critically endangered species- tiger.

There are 102 islands of which 58 are inhabited and 48 forested. About 5.1 million people live in the forest fringe villages in Sunderbans in the forest fringe areas .Though agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the people living in fringe-villages, but due mono-cropping nature of agriculture a large number of population depend on the forest and forest products such as prawn-seed collection, unscientific fishing, wood cutting, illegal honey collection and sometimes indulge themselves on poaching and illegal wildlife trade thereby threatening the tiger and other endangered flora and fauna population. In this situation, on one hand majority of people live here far below poverty line and on the other hand the treasure of mangrove ecosystem along with its unique biodiversity is facing severe threat.

Literacy percentage of the villagers varies between 5% and 15%. The embankments which form the lifeline of the people of Sunderbans are facing the threats of breaches due to unsustainable practices of mangrove plantation in the region. Aila in May 2009 have proved that wherever there was a mangrove line of protection there were no breaches and no inundation. It has been proved time and again how this mangrove belt acts as a buffer between the mainland and oceanic storms and waves protecting the mega polis of Kolkata.

Moreover, the health care facilities of the region is very poor and people have to go miles by boat in order to avail basic treatment from the primary health centre which lack the basic infrastructural facilities.

Last but not the least, drinking water crisis in the Sunderbans is acute. People queue up for hours under the scorching sun for a pot of water from the only tube well of the village.

The strategic position of Sunderban has helped her to house maximum number of tigers in the country in a natural way but it is still under continual threat due to poaching, illegal trade with tiger parts as also predominant pirate activities which needs to address involving the stakeholders through their capacity building.

After years of practice of conservation since Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, experiences have showed that participatory mode of conservation approaches with the community, as pioneered in Bengal, by ‘Arabari model’ should be the prime approach. Hence their integration and capacity building in various interventions is the prime approach.

Funded By: Initiated with ABN-AMRO Bank and then taken up by RBS
Project Duration: 2008

The main objectives of this project were

(1)To provide alternative livelihood to 450 families, who lives below poverty line in the forest fringe villages of the Sundarbans,

(2)To save the fragile river embankment through mangrove restoration with the community, the model practiced and tested by NEWS in their project with the British Deputy High Commission, Kolkata.

(3)To provide basic health care facilities and supply safe drinking water

(4)To generate awareness & arrange for capacity building among the village community to build capacity against natural disasters reduce the incidences of snake bites & also control illegal felling, poaching

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