ENVIS Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Saturday, August 15, 2020

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Plea to save Sunderbans

The telegraph, Kolkata, 8th April, 2013

R.K. Pachauri, environmentalist and chairman of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has warned against attempts at promoting eco-tourism in the Sunderbans, which the chief minister has promised to put on the global tourism map.

“Eco-tourism should not be encouraged per se in the Sunderbans as it will not only increase ecological vulnerability but may also prove economically non-viable,” Pachauri, who also heads The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a non-profit organisation, said at a programme organised by the Ladies Studies Group on Saturday.

Fears of eco-tourism ventures being economically non-viable, he pointed out, stem from the likely toll of climate change on the Sunderbans. “A high level of climate threat hangs not only on the Sunderbans, but also on Calcutta. Calcutta, Dhaka and Shanghai are the mega deltas being identified as major climate hotspots.”

Pachauri’s observation follows a detailed climate assessment report on the Sunderbans prepared by TERI. The study, funded by the state government, has mentioned the likely consequences of climate change in the Sunderbans, which include a dangerous rise in the sea level, high-intensity storms and water surge.

Pachauri’s stand is in contrast to what the state government plans do in the mangrove forest.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has earlier promised to turn the Sunderbans into an international tourist destination and create world-class infrastructure there. A year ago, she had announced that the government was considering a “comprehensive” tourism development package for the Sunderbans, “on the lines of the African Safari”.

The package would include areas like Patharpratima, Jharkhali, Pakhiralaya, Gosaba and Hingalganj. A “high-level” task force was set up to prepare the package.

“The task force has never met since I took charge,” tourism minister Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury told Metro on Sunday. “However, we are planning to expand the tourism infrastructure in the Sunderbans. We are planning to set up eco-tourism facilities across 99 acres in Jharkhali.”

The erstwhile Left Front government had tried to draft in the Sahara group to promote eco-tourism in the Sunderbans but the project never took off.

A tourism entrepreneur, however, spoke out against a blanket ban on tourism in the Sunderbans. “Rather, we should ensure proper eco-tourism facilities.... Unfortunately, most of the so-called privately-owned eco-tourism in the Sunderbans is hardly eco-tourism.”

At the Ladies Study Group programme, Pachauri handed over an environment award to Banani Kakkar of PUBLIC for the group’s “pioneering” work in the environment sector.