SUNDARBAN NATIONAL PARK
The Sundarbans is a vast forest in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal which is one of the natural wonders of the world. Located in the delta region of Padma, Meghna and Brahmaputra river basins, this unique forest area extends across South 24 Parganas and, North 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal State, India. The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the coastal environment. Sunderbans, which has an area of 10000 sq.kms approx. out of which 6000 square kilometers, is in Bangladesh and around 4000 square kilometers is in West Bengal, India.
The Sundarban forest lies in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal formed by the super confluence of the Ganges, Hooghly, Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers across southern Bangladesh. The seasonally flooded Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests lie inland from the mangrove forests on the coastal fringe. The forest covers 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi) of which about 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 sq mi) are in Bangladesh. It became inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. The Indian part of Sundarbans is estimated to be about 4,110 square kilometres (1,590 sq mi), of which about 1,700 square kilometres (660 sq mi) is occupied by waterbodies in the forms of river, canals and creeks of width varying from a few metres to several kilometres.
The history of the area can be traced back to 200–300 AD. A ruin of a city built by Chand Sadagar has been found in the Baghmara Forest Block. During the Mughalperiod, the Mughal Kings leased the forests of the Sundarbans to nearby residents. Many criminals took refuge in the Sundarbans from the advancing armies of Emperor Akbar. Many have been known to be attacked by tigers. Many of the buildings which were built by them later fell to hands of Portuguese pirates, salt smugglers and dacoits in the 17th century.
Evidence of the fact can be traced from the ruins at Netidhopani and other places scattered all over Sundarbans. The legal status of the forests underwent a series of changes, including the distinction of being the first mangrove forest in the world to be brought under scientific management. The area was mapped first in Persian, by the Surveyor General as early as 1764 following soon after proprietary rights were obtained from the Mughal Emperor Alamgir II by the British East India Company in 1757. Systematic management of this forest tract started in the 1860s after the establishment of a Forest Department in the Province of Bengal, in British India.
The Sundarbans flora is characterised by the abundance of sundari (Heritiera fomes), gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), goran (Ceriops decandra) and keora (Sonneratia apetala) all of which occur prominently throughout the area. The characteristic tree of the forest is the sundari (Heritiera littoralis), from which the name of the forest had probably been derived. It yields a hard wood, used for building houses and making boats, furniture and other things.
The Sundarbans provides a unique ecosystem and a rich wildlife habitat. According to the 2015 tiger census in Bangladesh, and the 2011 tiger census in India, the Sundarbans have about 180 tigers (106 in Bangladesh and 74 in India). Earlier estimates, based on counting unique pugmarks, were much higher. The more recent counts have used camera traps, an improved methodology that yields more accurate results. Tiger attacks are frequent in the Sundarbans. Between 0 and 50 people are killed each year.
There is much more wildlife here than just the endangered Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Most importantly, mangroves are a transition from the marine to freshwater and terrestrial systems, and provide critical habitat for numerous species of small fish, crabs, shrimps and other crustaceans that adapt to feed and shelter, and reproduce among the tangled mass of roots, known as pneumatophores, which grow upward from the anaerobic mud to get the supply of oxygen. Fishing cats, macaques, wild boars, common grey mongooses, foxes, jungle cats, flying foxes, pangolins, and spotted deer are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans.