The Sundarbans mangrove forest is experiencing increasing losses and harm due to climate change, and those accountable and financially capable of doing so need to take action, according to a new brief by Zero Carbon Analytics.
On Tuesday, COP27 Presidency launched the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda in partnership with the High-Level Champions. The agenda outlines “30 Adaptation Outcomes” to enhance resilience for 4 billion people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.
It envisions investing $4 billion to secure the future of 15 million hectares of mangroves through collective action to halt loss, restore, double protection and ensure sustainable finance for all existing mangroves.
The brief emphasizes that it is high time to finance the loss and damage that occurred to Sundarbans from climate change.
Sundarbans region is home to about 7.2 million people (4.5 million in India and 2.7 million in Bangladesh), including some of South Asia’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. It is the largest single mangrove forest in the world and is increasingly at threat from catastrophic impacts of climate change.
The region has always been affected by cyclones and extreme weather events, the rate and intensity of these events are increasing. This rise in cyclone frequency and severity is in part attributed to the rising temperature due to climate change.
Loss and damage
Sundarbans region has already increased about 1°C over the past century and is projected to warm by up to 3.7°C by 2100. In the last 23 years, the area has witnessed 13 supercyclones. Scientists project an increase of about 50 per cent in the frequency of post-monsoon cyclones by 2041-2060.
Saline water intrusion and soil salinity in this region have dramatically increased the notion of loss and damage. Lands are becoming highly unproductive from the frequent flooding with rising sea levels.
Study shows that many parts of the region will reach near ocean-level salinity by 2050 and in Bangladesh, soil salinity increased six times, up to fifteen times in certain areas.
The brief highlights that even though Sundarbans are a crucial natural blockade against natural disasters and are enriched with biodiversity, there is a deterioration in the health of mangrove forests due to increased salinity, temperature rise, and rainfall reduction.
The coverage of mangrove forests between 1975 and 2020 found that mangrove forests have been decreasing in density by an estimated annual rate of 1.3 per cent. Study shows the ecological service value of Sundarbans mangrove with $ 402 million in 2001 will be reduced by 45 per cent in 2100.
The brief also emphasized progressive salinisation and its impact on health. Due to climate change, there is a decline in available fresh drinking water in the rivers and groundwater. It leads to numerous adverse effects on human health, including dehydration, hypertension, prenatal complications, and increased infant mortality.
Hence, even though, Bangladesh is well-known for its adaptation practices, however, it is clear that adapting to some impacts of climate change will not be possible and, in some cases, the limits of adaptation have already been reached.
The Sundarbans bear little responsibility for global emissions (for example, the whole country of Bangladesh is accountable only for only 0.56 per cent of global emissions), but are forced to suffer the consequences.
This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organised by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.