Large parts of the eastern India state of West Bengal and Bangladesh experienced mayhem caused by the super-cyclone Amphan
Large parts of the eastern India state of West Bengal and Bangladesh experienced mayhem caused by the super-cyclone Amphan. While the state machineries are yet to get hold of the extent of economic loss inflicted by the Amphan, initial observations suggest that the magnitude of the loss is unprecedented especially in the Sunderbans delta – that harbours some of the most impoverished populations in the world who are mainly dependent on low yielding agriculture, fishery, honey and wax collection.
As of now, it appears that everal river embankments in the Sundarbans have been washed away or breached, causing flood and inundation of agricultural land with saline water, which will make them uncultivable for several years. Thousands of thatched dwellings have collapsed. It will take several days to even start relief operations as communication and connectivity are snapped.
Given this situation, while the immediate focus of the government and other machineries should be on providing relief to the distressed in the Sundarbans delta, in the medium to long term the focus should be on improving the lives and livelihood of the local inhabitants.
Owing to ecological constraints the delta is not suited for large-scale manufacturing. While agriculture is the predominant economic activity, optimally regulated tourism can provide alternate livelihood opportunities to the local population and act as a tool for regional development. Thus, there is a need for the development of sustainable tourism, especially cross-border river cruise tourism between India and Bangladesh, covering the Greater Sundarbans area.
This was a major recommendation of a study titled Sojourns in the Sundarbans - An Exploratory Study of Community-based River Tourism between India and Bangladesh,which was conducted by CUTS International last year with support from the World Bank Group.
The initiative to develop and promote community-based river cruise tourism between India and Bangladesh, especially in and near the Sundarbans, has the potential to not only popularise some of the existing and new tourism routes and locations, but also is capable of providing sustainable livelihood opportunities to a large number of residents of the Sundarbans delta.
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