The Indian Sunderbans has lost 3.71 per cent of its mangrove and other forest cover, while losing 9,990 hectares of its landmass to erosion in one decade, according to a satellite analysis conducted by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
As much as 1,607 hectares of the eroded area had vegetation, says the study comparing satellite data from February of 2003 and 2014. During the 10 years, 216 hectares of landmass had been added, of which 121 hectares has green vegetation.
The Eastern Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal, which is hearing a case of environmental violations in the Sunderbans, directed holding the study.
The study shows that about 95.14 per cent of the green cover has not undergone gone any change, while fresh vegetation has come up in 1.1 per cent of the entire area.
The satellite mapping, which has not gone into the details of the reason for loss of green cover, says the depletion may be due to natural and anthropogenic (human intervention) processes.
The 9,600-sq.km Indian Sunderbans is highly susceptible to coastal erosion and coastal land dynamics. A recent World Bank report pointed out that the carrying capacity of the landmass had exceeded with the population density of over 1,000 a sq.km.
Ajanta Dey, joint secretary of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society, said the ISRO study once again highlighted that the Sunderbans was a very fragile and dynamic landscape. Ms. Dey, who is assisting the Green Tribunal on the issue, said more studies were required to ascertain the exact loss.
Subhas Datta, environmental activist and amicus curiae in the case, said a ground investigation too was required to ascertain the loss of forest and landmass cover.
“In my opinion, the loss is far more than what has emerged in the satellite imaging. This loss has created a paradox where the land and resources are shrinking and the population is rising,” Mr. Datta said.