Building resilience for sustainable development of the Sundarbans: strategy report

Recognizing the importance and uniqueness of the Sundarbans, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Indian portion of the forest a World Heritage Site in 1987, and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program has included the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve in the Global Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves Contributing to Action on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. While the Sundarbans region is celebrated for its ecological attributes, it is a difficult place to live in. The inhabited portions of India’s Sundarbans are characterized by severe poverty, which both contributes to and arises from the vulnerability of the population to a growing range of natural hazards. Resilience is characterized by a capacity to adapt to changing conditions and persistent stresses by responding effectively. However, the resilience of those residing in the Sundarbans has been undermined by a long series of persistent pressures. Sea level rise, salinization of soil and water, cyclonic storms and flooding have combined over the past century to render this one of the most hazardous areas in the Indian subcontinent.