World Bank in January 2014 released a strategy report titled Building Resilience for Sustainable Development of the Sundarbans. The report states that the environmental damage in the climate change-hit islands of Sundarbans is costing India a sum of 1290 crore rupees annually.
The report was jointly prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the West Bengal government.
Key findings of the report
The findings of the report have been categorized in the form of five lessons. These lessons are:
• Lesson 1: 10 percent of Sundarban’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009 was invested on the environmental damage and health effects in the region. Thus, the highest priority should not be given to address future uncertain impacts but impacts of past events and current conditions that traps people in poverty should be taken care of.
• Lesson 2: Flooding from past sea level rise and land subsidence as well as increasing cyclonic storm intensity call for enhancement of the resilience of the biophysical system, especially the resilience of the mangrove system, given its important protective and productive functions. Thus, role of future climate change adaptation is less urgent in comparison
to current challenges that cast a long shadow over ongoing degradation of the resource base.
• Lesson 3: Interventions in the region need to maintain a careful balance so that a lifeline is extended to those currently under threat while ensuring that others are not placed at risk by encouraging inmigration. Thus, blindly following a Business-As-Usual (BAU) development scenario will make matters worse and will harm the residents of Sundarbans.
• Lesson 4: The Sundarbans region is not homogenous, geographically or socioeconomically. Thus, efforts should focus on enabling or motivating those in the transition zone to take part in experiencing broader economic development away from the high-risk areas. The report highlights that nearly 250 kilometer square of productive land in the transition zone will be lost in coming five to ten years due to erosion, cyclone impacts and estuary changes.
• Lesson 5: Need of fundamental shift in how the government institutions and their various partners work together, the BAU scenario, with all of its many adverse effects, as there is a need to take on the programmes that take into account the specific characteristics of the Sundarbans. At present such schemes are not implemented in the region.
To address the uncertainty in the future, the report had provided a menu of policy that could contribute in improving overall social and ecosystem resilience. It does not propose any separable option arising from different development strategies but presents a menu of options that work well together as a comprehensive strategy. The organising framework includes time frame, spatial distinctions, sectoral dimensions.
Time Frame – It states that the near-term priorities should be addressed within 10 years so that broder long-term goals can be achieved over a period of 30 to 100 years.
Spatial distinctions – Zones were divided into three categories and they are stable, transition and core.
Sectoral dimensions – It suggests that several recommendations will rely on a sectoral approach where possible and in some instances the recommendations can be carried out in a single responsible sectoral organisation while some may require paired or cooperative initiatives between sectors.
Four pillars to Build Resilience and Adaptive Capacity
To build the resilience of the socioeconomic and biophysical systems and to respond to the challenges being faced by the Sundarbans, four pillars were suggested namely Vulnerability Reduction, Poverty Reduction, Biodiversity Conservation and Institutional change.
The Sundarbans is a natural region in Bengal and the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans covers approximately 10000 square kilometres (3900 sq mi) in India and Bangladesh and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an archipelago of 54 islands and is a home for about 44 lakh people.