The Sundarbans, mangrove forest stood in the way of storms to save thousands of people on the coast and the environment.
Various climate-related natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, hurricanes, and tornados have been occurred many times in Bangladesh and also all over the World. The damages from such kinds of natural disasters are increased every year. The number of deaths from natural disasters can be highly variable from year to year; some years pass with very few deaths before a large disaster event claims many lives. If we look at the average over the past decade, approximately 60,000 people globally died from natural disasters each year.
Many ways are explored to protect the natural disasters. And researchers found that in many cases, large forests and tree plantations have offered an effective physical barrier against natural disasters and helped to save both life and the environment. In that point of view, Sundarbans is the largest forest with a large number of mangrove trees. The total area of Sundarbans is about 10,000 square kilometers, which lies between Bangladesh and India. The size of Sundarbans in Bangladesh part is about 6,017 square kilometers, which is 60-65% of the total area.
Sundarbans mangrove is not only beautiful to see but also rich in natural resources. It is one of the largest forests that protect the coast of Bangladesh like a coastal green shield. It plays an important role to prevent the salinity of the land, and ensure the safety of the environment. It may also act as a monitor to protect the country from various natural disasters. In 2019 Cyclone Bulbul attacked in Khulna, at this time the largest forest decreased its violent wind speed & made it weaker, and save the coastal area from several losses. For instance, the Sundarbans have protected the coast as the natural protector for Bangladesh from several damage from the cyclone ‘Bulbul”.
A diagram of Sundarbans Mangrove Forest indicates some threats to this forest area.
Dispute points are, how a mangrove forest can protect against natural disasters, and how to protect and enhance the capacity of this forest?
Role of Sundarbans as an Environmental protector
Sundarbans mangrove forests act as natural protectors in many different ways. At First, Sundarbans, Mangrove contribute to reducing the loss of life and damage to property from storms and cyclones as they reduce the impacts of the wave, storm surge, and high winds. It also reduces the ability of wind to exhaust the sediments and reduce to causes damage due to wind flow.
Secondly, Mangrove forests can reduce the loss of life property from different natural disasters like cyclones, storms, and tornados.
Thirdly, the dense root system of mangrove forests traps sediments flowing down rivers and land off the land. This helps stabilizes the coastline and prevents erosion from waves and storms. By filtering out sediments, the forests also protect coral reefs and seagrass meadows from being smothered in sediment.
Fourthly, Sundarbans mangrove forests help the fight against global warming by consuming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, most of which is stored within the plant. In fact, when mangrove tree roots, branches, and leaves die they are usually covered by soil, which is then submerged under tidal water, slowing the breakdown of materials and boosting carbon storage.
The World called the Amazon forest is the lung of the earth for making up about 20% of the world’s oxygen. Likewise, we can call the Sundarbans mangrove forest is the lung of Bangladesh because Sundarbans play the same role for our country. On the other hand, Sundarbans has protected the coast as the natural shield from severe damage from cyclone ‘Bulbul’ hit in the night of November 9 this year. It hit Satkhira Upazila adjacent to the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and then flowed over Khulna and Bagerhat parts of the Sundarbans. The cyclone claimed 24 lives, while battering 18,000 mud houses and total loss of winter vegetables is estimated at $14.8m. Damages must be increased but due to Sundarbans, the winds of the cyclone were interrupted and reached the Khulna and Bagerhat at relatively low speeds. It should be noted that the forest protected the coast from great natural calamities from cyclone Cedar on November 15, 2007, and cyclone Ayala on May 25, 2009. The Sundarbans has repeatedly done this role and prevents strong cyclone since many years.
The meteorologist said the “Extremely severe cyclonic storm” was packing maximum sustained winds around 160-170km/h (100-120mph) and gusts to 190km/h (120mph) as it roared ashore in Khulna, Mongla, and Satkhira. Experts said that the trail of devastation the Amphan left would have been much higher had the Sundarbans not been there as a defensive shield. The Sundarbans have shielded the coastal belt from the ferocity of the cyclone, which weakened to a land depression from extremely severe after crossing the larges mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans prevented huge damage from the cyclonic storm Amphan. The storm, however, claimed several lives in different coastal districts as its uprooted tree, caused the collapse of houses and prevented people from taking those ailing to hospitals for cyclone shelters. Even though instances of human causalities were reported during two earlier and similar storms in 2007 and 2009, hundreds to thousands of others survived as the Sundarbans stood as a shield between the inhabitants of the coastal districts and the fierce winds.
So, Sundarbans mangrove forests act both as environmental protectors and saviors of the earth around us and all over Bangladesh. So, previous cyclones proved that dense forest cover along the coastline, particularly wide belts of mangrove plantations such as those found in the Sundarbans and other coastal areas, is an effective buffer against the impacts of many natural disasters. Shortly, it can be said that Sundarbans play an important role as an environmental protector for the coastal region of Bangladesh.
Author is a student of Environmental Science & Engineering Department at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh-2220