Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vulnerable Sundarbans islanders use technology against climate change threats

WWF, the global conservation organization: The 20,000 residents of tiny, vulnerable Mousuni Island in the Indian Sundarbans are using technology to protect themselves from climate change-related threats – including deadly cyclones and rising sea levels – now impacting more and more severely upon them.

WWF recently inaugurated a Climate Adaptation Centre on the island, which aims to help Mousuni villagers better handle climate change by providing integral services such as an electronic early warning system, disaster preparedness kits, knowledge, resources and skills for adapting to climate impacts and educational materials for students. Low lying Mousuni Island, at 24 sq km, is the second most vulnerable of the islands, but the information gathered by the new station will assist Mousuni and neighbouring sea-facing islands in the Sundarbans.

Additional climate change threats to Mousuni include tidal surges, increased soil and water salinity and sea-level rise. The southern part of the island is expected to lose more than 15 percent of its landmass by 2020 because of rising sea levels, according to WWF-India While the population on the island has been on the increase, the size of the island has diminished because of sea-level rise. The cyclones and tidal surges have destroyed the communities by breaching embankments, wrecking homes and destroying harvests because of salt-water incursion from the sea.

“Mousuni island is in peril,” said Anurag Danda, Head of WWF India’s Sundarbans Programme. “Its neighbouring island, Sagar, is recording a relative sea level rise of 3.14 mm which is alarming. We have to work towards increasing the adaptive capacities of the communities before it is too late.” Other adaptation strategies introduced by WWF have included the re-introduction of indigenous salt-tolerant rice plants to farmers on the island. As the market value of this variety (tal mugur) is not far behind other high-yielding varieties, farmers on the island have been successful in maintaining their livelihoods without having to worry about losing crops to salt water incursion….

Sundari trees in the Sundarbans of Bengal, shot by Monster eagle, Wikimedia Commons, nder the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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