Sunderbans has the largest mangrove forest in the world located on a delta in the Bay of Bengal. The unique kind of flora and fauna that is available in this forest has made it a world heritage site of UNESCO. Conservation practices have been going on for quite some time to protect this rare forest with great bio-diversity.
The forest lies both in West Bengal, India, as well as in Bangladesh. The major part of the forest lies in Bangladesh. The forest is world renowned for being the largest reserve for Royal Bengal Tigers. The mangrove flora of the forest is also a rare spectacle.
Geography of Sunderbans
The geographical features of the land are very unique. Sunderbans is a delta where three rivers Brahmaputra, Meghna and Padma have their confluence. The coastal fringes of the forest are mangrove in nature whereas the interiors are swampy in nature.
These forests get flooded during high tide. The whole forest is interconnected with a network of water bodies. Almost half of the total area of the forest is covered by water bodies. This makes it imperative for the flora and fauna of the region to be adapted to these geographical features.
Mangroves found in Sunderbans
This type of trees constitutes the major part of the coastal forests and is the distinctive feature of the Sunderbans. The largest mangrove forest in the world is in the Sunderbans. The species of mangrove trees found is Heritierafomes, which is known as ‘sundari’ among the local people.
Hence the name of the forest is Sunderbans. The thick canopy of the plants makes it difficult for the sunlight to enter the forest. The plants conduct their respiration through their breathing roots or pneumatophores.
These roots are exposed to the air and have numerous pores on them. Other than Heritierafomes, there are other mangrove species like Xylocarpusgranatum, Avicennia sp., Cereopsdecandra and many more. This mangrove forest protects the coastal regions of Bangladesh from the extreme floods that are could have been caused by the tidal waves during the monsoon season. The forest plays the role of a natural barrier in this respect.
Swamp Forests in Sunderbans
Behind the mangrove forests lie the swamp forests. The salinity in the soil is negligible in this part of the forest due to the efforts of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra rivers. The freshwater of this part promotes the growth of tropical forest. The plants are broad leafed in nature. This part of the forest is less dense and hence it is under threat from human beings.
Human settlements have been built by clearing the forests and this threatens the very existence of the forest. The ever increasing population hassled man to invade into the forest in search of a place to stay. Of late, due to the intervention of the ecologists, conservation practices have been started. The importance of the forest has been realized and the necessary steps have been taken.
Wildlife in Sunderbans
The wildlife of the Sunderbans is diverse and rich. The forest has a large number of Royal Bengal Tigers, which is an endangered species.
There are a number of conservation practices that have been going on and a part of the Sunderbans is a “Tiger Reserve” as well. The people around the Sunderbans have been at the receiving end of tiger attacks very often. The tigers often stray into the localities to feed on cattle and human beings.
Apart from the tigers for which the Sunderbans is world famous, there are a host of other animal species as well. The marine as well as freshwater bodies in the forests are rich in small fishes, shrimps and crabs.
Fishing cats, mongooses, wild boars, foxes, pangolins, jungle cats, spotted dears and macaques are very common in the forests of Sunderbans. Crocodiles are another predator that are very dangerous and widely present in the Sunderbans. They can thrive in salt water and provide a threat for the fishermen who go for fishing.
Other reptiles like different species of snakes are found in the forests as well. Studies have shown that the part of Sunderbans lying in Bangladesh, are richer in terms of biodiversity. Conservation practices that have been conducted in the forests have helped in protecting the animals.
Endangered Species found in Sunderbans
There are a large number of endangered species of animals that are present in the Sunderbans. This makes it all the more important to carry out conservation practices in the forest and protect the rare animals from the hands of the poachers. The Royal Bengal Tiger is the main target of the poachers.
The Tiger Reserve that has been created in the Sunderbans protects this endangered species of tigers from the poachers. Apart from tigers, Olive Ridley turtles are the other highly endangered species. Their number has been on the decline for quite some years now. Other species which are endangered are the Gangetic Dolphin, Estuarine Crocodiles, Swamp Deers and many more.
How to Reach Sunderbans from Howrah
There are a number of ways by which one can reach the Sunderbans from Howrah. People can avail the bus service from Howrah to Namkhali, 105 km away, which is close to the Sunderbans. Train service is available from Sealdah as well. This is perhaps the best option. One can take a bus from Howrah to Sealdah and ride a train from Sealdah to Canning.
From Canning buses are available to Namkhana and other areas in the Sunderbans which is a short distance. Ferry services are available from Namkhana to the Sunderbans at regular intervals during the day. There are gateways other than Namkhana like Sajnekhali, Sonakhali and others. All these places are connected to the Sunderbans by boat services. Trains are available from Sealdah to all these places.
Best Time to Visit Sunderbans
The best time to visit Sunderbans is from November to March.
Sunderbans is a major tourist destination in West Bengal, attracting a large number of tourists every year. The travel route from Howrah, a major railway station in India has been mentioned above. Most tourists follow the given routes to reach the Sunderbans and enjoy the natural biodiversity of the place which is a rare thing elsewhere.