Super cyclone Amphan battered West Bengal and Bangladesh’s coastal area and badly damaged parts of the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, spread across India and Bangladesh.
The cyclone has already hit the coastal district of Khulna with strong winds and heavy rainfall.
Streets waterlogged, trees uprooted and houses damaged due to strong winds and heavy rain as Amphan crossed West Bengal-Bangladesh coast between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) across Sunderbans.
The cyclonic storm Amphan has uprooted around 12,300 trees, mostly Garans, in the Bangladeshi part of the Sundarbans mangrove forest.
Vulnerable people were evacuated from the coastal and forest areas ahead of the cyclone. The fate of wild animals found in the Sundarban would have suffered the most in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.
However, the Sundarbans has saved Bangladesh again, which it has been doing for hundreds of years.
Similarly, this time, it took the blow of super-cyclone Amphan and protected us from severe devastation.
When it comes to saving people from coastal flooding, Bangladesh is one of the top three countries in the world getting the most benefit from its mangroves.
According to a recent study, a 20-km mangrove stretch could give more than USD 250 million-flood protection benefits a year. Can we only partly imagine the importance of the Sundarbans to Bangladesh?
The Sundarbans is not only an ecosystem is torn rather it is an unspoken “trouble-shooter” addressing our social challenges.
We were already overwhelmed by two of the main challenges—climate change and biodiversity loss. What is more, mangroves are such natural systems that can help us tackle both challenges.
As we continue facing a climate crisis and biodiversity loss in catastrophic proportions can be protecting the Sundarbans and nature, as a whole, be our priority now?
Like other countries with mangroves, Bangladesh is also enjoying tremendous benefits out of them.
Globally, mangroves give us USD 65 billion value of coastal flood protection each year. They yearly give us USD 50 billion non-market benefits from fisheries, forestry, and recreation.
We may justify investing in the protection, restoration, and expansion of the mangroves. However, the return from preserving and restoring mangrove is 10 times the investment. How would we value thousands of years of evolution of mangroves? What price can we put on a mangrove when it is the home of hundreds?
Unfortunately, Sundari tree, the main mangrove species in the Sundarbans is becoming unhealthy gradually.
However, there is no significant decline in the number of mangroves in the Sundarbans for the last 30 years. However, there is evidence of a 25% health decline of the mangrove trees.
It is due to the effect of increased salinity and the continuing effects of climate change. These could critically hamper its ability to reborn.
A satellite-based data-driven study on world’s mangrove system brought new findings to say that the dreadful effects of climate change could severely hamper the growths of Sundari tree.
Around 1.44 million cubic meters of Sundari trees have been lost to “top-dying disease in the last 30 years,” experts said.
Top-dying disease among the Sundari, heart-rot disease among the Pashur, and dieback disease in the Kewara, are behind the trees’ rapid decline.
The expert said, the increases of saline water are the key reason, and this is happening in the Sundarbans.
Unfavourably, the Sundari tree is less tolerant of high salinity levels than another mangrove species.
“There is evidence of a decline in the health of about 25% of the mangrove trees,” said study author Katie Awty-Carroll of Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Wales.
Awty-Carroll and his team observed along with a 30-year time series of Landsat data of the entire Sundarbans.
However, it is hard to know the proper explanations behind this decline in mangrove health, the scientists think the long-term decline in mangrove health may be linked to the impacts of increased salinity on the Sundari tree.
Also, rising sea levels are increasing salinity, with adverse effects on the damage from severe cyclones mean that the defensive capacity of the Sundarbans could be reduced in future years.
This study also explored the damage of Sidr, which made landfall in Bangladesh in November 2007.
“We estimate that around 11% of the Sundarbans forest was damaged by Sidr, which is lower than other estimates,” said Awty-Carroll.
Meanwhile, this study also revealed that the effects of Sidr were still apparent more than 10 years after the cyclone made landfall.
Besides, the super-cyclone Amphan brought significant damage over the entire Sundarbans region.
Accordingly, this suggests that major cyclones could decrease the health of the mangroves for a long.
We know, Climate change has to lead to an increase in the salinity of the water and soil of the Sundarbans.
Earlier, it was a finding of 30ppm of salinity in the water—which declines the disease-prevention capacity of the trees.
Zulker Naeen is a South Asia Fellow at Climate Tracker and freelance climate journalist from Bangladesh. He has three years of experience in the field. Zulker developed all his courses with the support of other experienced Climate Tracker staff credited on the course landing page.
As a young climate advocate, his fellowship aims to share knowledge of climate change.
Climate Tracker is a global media network closely works on Climate Change.