I had been always viscerally influenced by the Sundarbans, its mysteries and splendors. Sundarbans is the world’s largest contiguous mangrove ecosystem shared by Bangladesh and India in the Ganges Delta. After several trips and the passage of long times, my fascination for the Sundarbans had grown ever stronger.
There is something inexplicably awe-inspiring about this deep mangrove swamps… like they exist in a time before the advent of man.
The moment you enter the tidal world, three colors dominate – blue skies, green mangroves and brown mud.
The physical experience of going by the maze of rivers and creeks of the Sundarbans puts you in a different world - the mangroves’s secretive splendor unfolds serene wilderness, constantly changing variations of green and moods, the unusual aerial and conical root structures, well-adapted in every inch of water, mud and bark. The eerie and captivating sensation that time has slowed down and that the forest and everything within it exists in a different state. To enter this other place is to accept a slowing of time and a shift in perception. The comforting throb of boat engines gives a lulling effect as minutes turn to hours, then days in the water world of the Sundarbans. Yet, surprises keep jumping out at you from muddy shores that literally crawl with life.
The tides rise and fall periodically inundating all of the land. Mangroves are trees that are adapted to living in brackish water. Different tree species are found in different parts of the Sundarbans, adapted to different levels of saltiness. An incredible, resilient network of roots supports the mangrove forests and protects its islands from disastrous waves, tides, cyclones, and storms; the mangroves’ intricate root system is central to the stability of the habitat. Conical roots pierce the muddy forest floor; meadows of brilliant green induced by monsoon rains. People are intimately connected to with this unique habitat with variety of animals including the protected Royal Bengal Tigers, estuarine crocodiles, sharks, spotted deer, wild boar, gangetic dolphins, otters, Olive Ridley turtles and several species of birds and snakes.
Early mornings and the dusks - the quiet was more like a fog or a mist, creeping in slowly, from a distance, wrapping itself around certain sounds while revealing others: the slow moves of a boat, the cackle of a heron, flapping of the wild geese, moving of a reptile, or, falling of the mangrove leaves like whispers. The first person you fall in love with will be a spotted deer. Life goes on by the shores and the river banks.
I am keenly aware that climate change and human interference have imperiled much of the Sundarbans. The forest we love is slowly dying, if not in our lifetime, then in the next. It is reaching the ‘tipping point’ where further damage by humans could push the ecosystem into an ecological tailspin, from which its co-inhabitants may never recover. But nature has the power to repair and renew all… if we allow it to. That is the foundation for all of us to make the joint resolve to work for the protection of the Sundarbans inheritance for posterity.
© Laila Nahar