18 July 2019
Climate Change impact is pushing up man-tiger conflict in Sundarban leading to increasing number of tiger afflicted calamities in recent time. Though there is no documented record, researchers working with man tiger conflict claim that there have been about 3000 human deaths from tiger attacks since 80’s.
“It’s a fact that fish catch has been gradually dwindling over last few years forcing the fisherman to spend greater time close to forest areas, particularly within the narrow creeks adjacent to tiger habitats ; & thus increasing the risk of tiger attacks;” said Milan Das of Dakshin Banga Motsyojibi Forum (South Bengal Fishermen Forum). Das recently accompanied 20 odd women to Kolkata; all have lost their husbands to tiger attacks while working close to forest areas in search of their livelihoods. The women demanded compensation & other benefits from Government of West Bengal.
A frontline climate scientist & Sundarban expert has linked the trend to climate change phenomenon. “Due to impact of climate change, particularly sea surface temperature rise and resulting increase in evaporation rate, the salinity of Sundarban water is steadily increasing; which is further enhanced due to reduction in fresh water flow from upstream. As fishes are generally sensitive to such micro-environmental change; hence the catch is going down”, explains Sugata Hazra, a professor of oceanographic department in Jadavpur University of Kolkata, India. Apart from climate change, surge in market demand for crabs in Sundarban is also leading to more people including women to go close to islands with wild animals; & thus making them extremely vulnerable to possible tiger attacks, added Hazra. Crab catchers often go very close to forest, in the adjacent mudflat or low-level water, to catch crabs. Fishermen agreed that crab demand is on rise & also the price has gone up significantly in recent time.
Official statistics show that every year in average 20 persons get killed by tigers within Indian Sundarban; almost similar number in Bangladesh Sundarban. However the actual casualty figure may be much higher as locals shared with sundarbansonline.com that nearly 100 people are used to be killed by tigers every year only in Indian Sundarban.
According to West Bengal forest department data, 95 per cent of the tiger triggered casualties happen within and around forest area. The report further pointed out that 77 per cent of such attacks are found to happen during fishing, 13 per cent during honey collection & 6 per cent during crab catching. It is moreover found that historically about four-fifth of the attacks had happened in narrow creaks during low tide; which increases the access of tigers to people working close to forest.
“It’s a typical case of climate change impacting lives and livelihoods. All these hapless people have the right to receive compensation. We are fighting for the cause of such people in global front and demanding that there should be a dedicated fund under ‘loss and damage’ to support such climate change affected people” said Harjeet Singh, global lead of ActionAid in climate change to the sundarbansonline.com.