There is one popular opinion about Ghoramara Island’s large scale erosion and areal reduction. If you ‘google’ it, you will get enough links carrying contents that ultimately link the issue with Climate Change and Sea Level Rise. Within the first few links, there is even a scientific article by Ghosh, Bhandari and Hazra, three scientists from the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, which is incidentally my alma mater. There are enough pictures, comments, News-paper excerpts and even news video from Youtube. Ghoramara‘s plight has an undeniable human angle – coupled with Climate Change/SLR issues, it’s a heady mix. Sadly, while there are enough lip service and scientific debates, life of people of Ghoramara continue to remain on edge. Ghoramara has become an eco-disaster tourism attraction.
Under professional calling, I was needed to submit a report on Ghoramara in 2006 and despite all popular interest and limelight, I failed to find a direct co-relation between the Island’s erosion and Port’s commercial interests linked with nearby shipping channels – there was just not enough evidence, study and records from a scientific perspective. I faced a moral dilemma (as I witnessed the plight of the people of the Island and wished to do something for them) which had to give way to practical business sense. In 2006, Ghoramara Island had something around 8 kilometers of coastline. Protections by way of engineering interventions in such scales do not come cheap. One of my earliest recommendations was to generate a public alert and a call for a rehabilitation program by the Government agencies related to public works.
When homeless people of Ghoramara are dabbed as ‘environmental refugees’ there is a marked tendency of grouping them with forced-migration people, for example, like from Alaskan Village of Kivalina. This tendency is more pronounced in people who are not native to Hugli estuarine delta. These estuaries are unique in the sense that they have a history of dynamic hydro-morphology, a fragile mangrove ecology and a tremendous anthropogenic interference in the area. We do not seem to notice that the Sunderbans (Ghoramara is either inside Sunderban biosphere or very close to it) is the only forest eco-system in the entire world where humans remained one inhabitant alongside wild animals – even in the core forest.
In short, accretion and erosion in a very wide river delta like Hugli which in addition suffers from scarcity of upland discharge and transports colossal sediment load, creation of bars, shoals and mud-flats give rise to islands in shorter time scales and such islands get eroded with changes in flow patterns and flux equally fast (4 decades is a blink in geological scale). I cannot help but feel amused as to why popular attention is not so much about development of the nearby Nayachara Island (just North West of Ghoramara) and Balari (further north) in the same four decades of areal reduction of Ghoramara. Nayachara Island being largely uninhabitated, I find it very surprising why homeless people were not relocated there.
I, by no means, make light of the predicament of the people of Ghoramara Island. Rather, since I was one of very few people from the outside world to witness and experience the struggles of their daily lives and their hardship during monsoon months, I strongly feel that they need all help and support for a better and secure life. However, ascribing the reasons of Ghoramara Island’s gradual shrinking solely to Climate Change/SLR issues, without considering the local geo-morphological trends for centuries, is, to my opinion, a sensationalization of the situation, which does not help the affected people in any way.
(To be continued)
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