Sundarban A UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site

Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest, covers over 10,000 square kilometers of land and water, lying in the Ganges delta – Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, on the Bay of Bengal. This place is bisected by complex network of mudflats, tidal waterways and small islands of saline mangrove forests, presenting an excellent instance of the ubiquitous ecological processes. The wide range of fauna, flora and avifauna is one of the distinct characteristics of Sundarbans which include more than 250 species of birds and the ferocious Royal Bengal Tiger along with the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python. Sundarbans attained the status of a Tiger Reserve in the year 1973, when the Project Tiger Program was conceived in India. A few years later, in the year 1977, it was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary and seven years later, in the year 1984, it was declared as a National Park. Recognition from UNESCO as a world heritage site came in the year 1987.

Justification for UNESCO Inscription

The UNESCO Committee inscribed Sundarbans under criteria (ix) and (x) recognizing it as one of the largest mangrove forests in the earth which is abode to an extra-ordinary biodiversity along with varying range of flora and fauna. To put in more details : –

Criterion (ix): The Sundarbans is not only the largest mangrove forest in the world, but it is the only Mangrove forest that is being inhabited by tigers. Sundarban’s land area and demography constantly changes and are shaped by tidal waves, making the erosion processes more prominent along estuaries. The deposition processes along the banks of inner estuarine waterways is encouraged by the high discharge of silt from sea water. The site’s role as a wetland wherein marine organisms dwell and constant climatic buffer against recurring cyclones has also been taken as a unique natural process.

Bengal Tiger

Criterion (x): Sundarban’s mangrove ecosystem is unique because of the immensely rich mangrove flora and fauna. More than 78 species of mangroves have been found in the site which makes Sundarbans the richest mangrove forest in the earth. The site is also held unique as the mangroves found herein are not only the fringing mangroves that are found along the backwaters and creeks, but they seem to pop up along the river side, in muddy and also in flat and sandy regions.

The Sundarbans support a number of animal species such as tiger along with a number of other endangered aquatic mammals such as the River dolphins. Endangered reptiles such as King Cobra and endemic river terrapins are also common in this land. Marine turtles as well as primitive horseshoe crab can be found here.

Sundarbans islands have great economic significance being the shore stabilizer, storm barrier, nutrient and sediment beholder, a genuine source of timber and natural resources, and abode to a variety of aquatic and terrestrial organisms. The island provides an outstanding example of ecological processes and has been rightly considered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.