The hungry tide: Bay of Bengal’s sinking islands
As melting snow rushes down from the Himalayas, islands in India’s Bay of Bengal slowly sink amid rising waters.
Ghoramara, India – Ghoramara island is known as the “sinking island”. Located 150km south of Kolkata in the Bay of Bengal’s Sunderban delta, the island, once spanning more than 20sq km, has been reduced to an area of merely 5sq km.
“Over the last two decades I’ve lost 1.2 hectares of cultivable land to the Muriganga river and had to shift my home four times. There has been no resettlement initiative from the government,” said Anwara Bibi, 30, a resident of Nimtala village on the island.
Global warming has caused the river to grow. Flowing down from the mighty Himalayas the river brings more and more snowmelt along as it empties into the Bay of Bengal.
High tides and floods play havoc on the fragile embankments, displacing hundreds of islanders every year.
“Most men have migrated to work in construction sites in the southern part of India,” Sanjeev Sagar, the head of the local council of Ghoramara Island, told Al Jazeera.
More than 600 families have been displaced in the last three decades, leaving behind 5,000 odd residents struggling with harsh monsoons every year.
“A large-scale mangrove plantation could prevent tidal erosion,” suggested Sugata Hazra who is a professor at the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University. “With every high tide a part of the island is getting washed away.”
Only those without any means to migrate are left on this island.
Amid this crisis, basic services such as education are being neglected by authorities.
“The nearest senior secondary school is across the river at Kakdwip,” said Sourav Dolui, 16, a 9th grade student at the Ghoramara Milan Bidyapeeth.