Cyclone Yaas and Amphan devastated the mangrove forests in Sunderbans of West Bengal. Now, the forest department is planning to plant more than 5 crore mangroves across the Sunderbans to compensate for the loss.
As part of the drive, six species of mangrove saplings have been planted in 14 nurseries of the forest department, said, forest officials. The saplings will later be planted in Sunderbans. The forest department said that about 2.5 crore trees, were damaged due to floods and cyclone Amphan last year. The forest department had planted crores of trees to compensate for the loss. But after Cyclone Yaas struck the areas in May this year those trees were damaged again.
'More Damage Suffered This Year'
"This time we have suffered more damage than last year. as the cyclone coincided with the spring tide the storm and the surge was much higher," said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"There are certain deep-rooted mangrove species such as Rhizophora, Bruguiera and Avicennia which may not only act as a bio-shield but if planted on the embankments, may also help to bind the soil and make them more robust," HS Debnath, former director of the Indian Botanic Garden. He added that these species will take at least four to five years to grow up to the right size to protect the embankments.
The district administrations have also allotted 1,094 hectares of land for the drive. Overall, mangroves will be planted in about 1,902 hectares of land.
Eco-Watchers Call It Political Gimmick
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's decision of entrusting the forest and environment departments with the task of studying the feasibility of creating a natural barrier in the Sunderbans by developing mangroves, however, has not gone done well with many. Many eco-watchers claim that planting mangroves across such a vast area is an absurd proposition and have termed it a political gimmick. They have questioned the feasibility of raising mangroves over the Sundarbans, which is roughly spread over 9,630 sq km, of which, nearly 5,400 sq km is inhabited by humans while the rest is forest area.
Environmentalist Subhash Dutta told The Economic Times that planting 5 crore mangrove saplings is an absolute political gimmick.
"Post-Amphan, there was tremendous financial corruption involving this plantation. The corruption is such that no one will understand how much cultivation is being done, how many trees could survive and how many died. So, this time, even if a megaproject is undertaken, it is just a political gimmick," he added.