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Hot spot for tourism or deathbed of bio-diversity?
In spite of efforts of the state government to ensure that the Sunderbans secures a place in the eco-tourism map of India, experts have sounded a warning that the areas rich but fragile bio-diversity is on the brink of extinction and its air pollution level has been termed as no less than critical.

A study conducted by Jadavpur University and National Physical Laboratory, funded by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has detected presence of fine particles in the air around the Sundarbans, indicating not only the influence of anthropogenic pollution by locals but more interestingly, long-range transport of pollutants from the surrounding metro city and continental locations. The project was sanctioned to study the effect of air pollution on the unique bio-diversity and environment of Sundarbans, the worlds largest mangrove delta spread over India and Bangladesh. The selected sampling site is at Kaikhali, one of the 54 islands that constitute the Sundarbans.

The area is a secluded one and no major source of pollution like industrial activities and intense automobile exhaust, falls in its close proximity. But the findings show the area is comparable to any urban area, even Kolkata, as far as particulate pollution is concerned. According to researchers the rising air pollution can be partially blamed on the increase in economic activities and population in the area, particularly with the development of better commuting facilities.

We require definite policy formulation for developmental activities and use of non-conventional energy as well as funding from both the state and the Centre to save the Sundarbans, said Prof. Niladri Chakraborty, principal investigator of the project. Unlimited burning of bio-mass for both household and agricultural purposes, emissions from bhutbhutis (diesel-driven vehicles) plying in and around the area, increasing use of diesel, kerosene and petrol as fuel in generators and use of kerosene in households, all contribute to pollution. Experts say such high levels of ozone, carbon monoxide and fine particulates in the atmosphere is extremely harmful for the bio-diversity of the Sunderbans.

It is not only green house gases but particulate air pollutants originating from areas witnessing widespread industrialisation, that pose a threat to the fragile eco-system of the Sundarbans, said Prof. Ashes Prasad Mitra, a noted physicist and Fellow Royal Society.
Posted On : 1-4-2007
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