Rising sea levels engulfing Indian world heritage islands

KOLKATA, Dec 21, 2006 (AFP) – Rising sea levels have submerged two islands in the Sunderbans, where tigers roam through mangrove forests in the Ganges River delta, and a dozen more islands are under threat, scientists say.

A six-year study of the impact of future climate change on the world natural heritage site that India shares with Bangladesh came up with alarming results.

Official records list 102 islands on the Indian side of the vast Sunderbans, where the Ganges and Brahmaputra empty into the Bay of Bengal.

But scientists have been able to map only 100 islands and found the other two have been swallowed up, says Sugata Hazra, director of Kolkata’s School of Oceanography Studies at Jadavpur University.

Fifty-two of the islands are inhabited with a population of more than 1.8 million people.

“Two islands, Suparibhanga and Lohacharra, which have gone under water could not be sighted in satellite imagery. The (disappearance of the) two islands have rendered over 10,000 people homeless,” says Hazra.

“A dozen others on the western end of the inner estuary delta are threatened.
“As the islands sink, nearly 100,000 people will have to be evacuated from the islands in the next decade,” Hazra tells AF