The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal. It spans from the Hooghly River in India’s state of West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh. It comprises closed and open mangrove forests, agriculturally used land, mudflats and barren land, and is intersected by multiple tidal streams and channels. Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Sundarbans National Park, Sundarbans West, Sundarbans South and Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuaries. The Sundarbans mangrove forest covers an area of about 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi). In West Bengal, they extend over 4,260 km2 (1,640 sq mi) across the South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts.Forests in Bangladesh’s Khulna Division extend over 6,017 km2 (2,323 sq mi). The most abundant tree species are Sundri (Heritiera fomes) and Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha). The forests provide habitat to 453 faunal wildlife, including 290 bird, 120 fish, 42 mammal, 35 reptile and eight amphibian species.
The name ‘Sundarbans’ Bengali: সুন্দর বন Shundorbôn means ‘beautiful forest’.
Despite a total ban on all killing or capture of wildlife other than fish and some invertebrates, it appears that there is a consistent pattern of depleted biodiversity or loss of species in the 20th century, and that the ecological quality of the forest is declining. The Directorate of Forest is responsible for the administration and management of Sundarban National Park in West Bengal. In Bangladesh, a new Forest Circle was created in 1993 to preserve the forest, and Chief Conservators of Forests have been posted since. Despite preservation commitments from both Governments, the Sunderbans are under threat from both natural and human-made causes. In 2007, the landfall of Cyclone Sidr damaged around 40% of the Sundarbans. The forest is also suffering from increased salinity due to rising sea levels and reduced freshwater supply. The proposed coal-fired Rampal power station situated 14 km (8.7 mi) north of the Sundarbans at Rampal Upazila of Bagerhat District in Khulna, Bangladesh is anticipated to further damage this unique mangrove forest according to a 2016 report by UNESCO.
Animals of The Sundarbans:
- Mammals: Royal Bengal Tiger, Fishing Cats, Macaques, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Fox, Jungle Cat, Flying Fox, Pangolin and Spotted Deer.
- Reptiles: River Terrapin, Many rare species of turtles, Monitor Lizards, Estuarine Crocodiles, Chameleons and snakes such as Pythons, Water Snakes, Vipers, Common Kraits, Chequered Killbacks and Rat Snakes.
- Birds: Open Billed Storks, White Ibis, Water Hens, Coots, Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Several species of Kites, Falcons, Eagles, Sea Eagles and Seagulls; many species of Kingfishers, several species of Herons, Marsh Harriers, Swamp Partridges, Red Junglefowls, Spotted Doves, Jungle Babblers, Cotton Teals, Herring Gulls, Caspian Terns, Spot-billed Pelicans, Large Egrets, Common Snipes, Wood Sandpipers, Green Pigeons, Rose Ringed Parakeets, Paradise Flycatchers, Cormorants, Woodpeckers, Black-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Pintails, White Eyed Pochards and Whistling Teals. Fish and Amphibians: Sawfish, Butter Fish, Electric rays, Silver carp, Barb (fish), River Eels, Star Fish, Common Carp, King Crabs, Prawn, Shrimps, Gangetic Dolphins, Skipping Frogs, Common Toads and Tree Frogs.
Currently the Sundarbans are divided into 55 compartments under four forest ranges demarcated by rivers, canals and creeks. Currently inside the Sundarbans there are three wildlife sanctuaries: East, West and South sanctuary.
The Sundarbans Tourist Attractions:
- Katka: This beautiful spot is located on the southeast corner of the Sundarbans and belongs to the Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuary under the Sundarbans East Forest Division. This is a tourist frequented spot for Sundarbans’ wildlife watching.Spotted deer is regularly seen here and occasionally the great Royal Bengal Tiger. The 40 feet high wooden watch tower gives a wide aerial view of the grassy meadows amongst the mangroves. Furthermore, shallow water channels around the area provide easy routes for watching monkeys, birds, deer, lizards and snakes. Few jungle treks and a sea beach is located in the vicinity. There is also a rest house here, but prior booking is required.
- Kochikhali: This spot is located 14km to the east of Katka and belongs to East Wildlife Sanctuary under Sundarban East Forest Division. This spot features dense forests facing the Bay of Bengal. Trails of numerous marine and land creatures are found on the beach. The East Kochikhali Khal and Supati khal are famous as the entrance of Tiger to Kochikhali. Boating along the canals criss-crossing the area provides tourists with the opportunity to spot basking crocodiles, deer, lizards, wild boar and lots of birds. There is also a rest house at Kachikhali.
- Nilkomol (Hiron Point): Headquarter of the South Wildlife Sanctuary under Sundarban West Forest Division. This is a frequented spot by the tourists for watching monkey, crocodiles, otter, snakes, birds and the breath taking natural beauty of the mangrove forest. Occasionally tigers are also seen in this area. There is a rest house at Nilkamal.
- Dublar Char: A beautiful island off the coast of Sundarbans, to the south west of Katka and south east of Hiron Point. This place is known for fishing villages and dry fish processing. Every year the famous three day long Rash Mela is held here by the Hindu community. Thousands of people arrives here for this event, from different part of the country.
- Koromjol: A forest station with a deer breeding and wildlife rearing centre.
- Mandarbaria: A less frequented destination and provides good opportunities of seeing tigers and other animals.
- Tin Kona Island: Location for spotting wildlife including deer and tigers. This island has an enchanting, but wild beauty merged with wild forests and estuaries.