ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOOD DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES IN SUNDARBANS
Climate change is a major concern across the globe and this has been directly affecting the coastal communities of Sundarbans. It has been hugely affecting the lives and livelihood of the communities living around the coastal region. Hence, we have developed our activities in such a way that it deals with this burning issue and tries to provide adaptive solution to the community. The activities of SEED related to Climate Change Adaptation are briefly shared here-
Climate Adaptive Agriculture
Livelihood, safety and security of Sundarbans people are mainly dependent on natural resources and the climate of the region. All 19 blocks of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve (SBR) are prone to the climate change affect as anticipated by IPCC. So, the communities living in these blocks in different islands must know the effects of climate change on their livelihoods and how they can adapt to this changing climate.
A number of communication programme on regular basis are being organised by means of meetings, workshops, seminars, website and other activities etc. to Increase public awareness and community knowledge regarding possible adverse impacts of climate change.
The changing climate affects the agricultural pattern as the patterns of rainfall, in quantity, timing and frequency in the islands are also changing with time. Attempts are also being made with persuasion to introduce sustainable livelihood options in respect of the changing scenario. To reach the desired goal, several interactions with coastal rural communities of in Sagar Island (Sundarban) were organised to make them aware about climate change effects on their daily lives and how they can adapt with it through various alternate livelihood options.
Cadastral Level Survey
A survey has been carried out in a pilot scale. Muriganga–I Gram Panchayat of Sagar block, Sundarban was selected for detailed cadastral plot level survey. Located in the northern most tip of the Sagar Island, Muriganga–I G.P is one of the most vulnerable gram panchayat in Sagar block and is flanked on both sides by the Rivers Hooghly and Muriganga. Inundation of parts of this gram panchayat due to embankment breaching and consequent salt water intrusion and flooding are quite common phenomenon here due to its typical physiographic set up.
Mapping of the Landuse, natural resources, assets and amenities like sources of drinking water etc. up to the level of cadastral plot has been completed. At present, field survey is going on to know how Inundation through embankment breaching, salt water intrusion and flooding has affected and also going to affect the current status of livelihood of the community in the area and the consequent actions of the local community to cope with such adverse change of climate based on traditional wisdom and knowledge. Presently, the causes of natural degradation of the embankment which is the lifeline of the people residing in this gram panchayat, rainfall period and its intensity, storm surges, fresh water shortage, salinity of soil etc. are being measured and delineated through field survey.
A number of awareness camps were organised in different parts of Sundarbans on immediate defence mechanism during climate induced disasters such as creation of seed/grain bank, food bank, first aid, defence to breaching of embankment using local materials for Climate Change Adaptation.
Participation in community fairs to make campaign against coastal pollution
SEED has been participating in 'Ganga Sagar Mela (fair)' for carrying out campaigns to make people aware about the impacts of coastal pollution in our environment. For last three years, this particular endeavours of SEED were supported by the World Bank sponsored ICZM Project, West Bengal and SEED took part in these noble missions with full enthusiasm.
Installation and providing small infrastructures to combat pollution
In order to stop indoor pollution emanating out of kitchen and thus protecting women from smoke related diseases, a number of smokeless chullahs were installed in different parts of Sundarbans with the smoke pipe releasing kitchen smoke outside the cooking area. Such a measure also helped in protection of environment since these chullahs consume less biomass and thereby green resources.
Training on Climate Resilient Agriculture and Aquaculture
Agriculture is the major livelihood and Aquaculture along with fishing is the second major livelihood in Sundarbans. These two sectors are mainly hit by the effects of Climate Change hugely. Due to sea level rise and breach of embankment, the agricultural lands and aquaculture ponds get inundated with salt water making them sterile for a long period. In such a situation, Climate Change adaptation techniques come to their rescue. SEED provided several Climate resilient trainings to the farmers and fish cultivators which are discussed in brief here-
- Introduced and trained the farmers in organic farming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to a great extent. It is one of the appropriate farming systems that could serve the twin objectives of climate change mitigation as also adaptation. Organic agriculture as an alternative approach maximizes the performance of renewable resources and optimizes nutrient and energy flows in agro ecosystems.
- Trainings on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technique were provided. The farmers were taught on soil testing before applying any fertilizer.
- Trainings were provided on water conservation and use of appropriate quantity of water usage in the beetle vine (Paan) farm as excessive use of water was causing loss of a huge amount of crops every year.
- Offered training on precision framing to the coastal farmers so that they can get better yield and production in every season even in a disastrous situation.
- A total number of more than 300 CBOs were given field hand holding training in horticulture, beetle vine cultivation and vegetable cultivation. Through these trainings, we have been able to empower around 4500 families in coastal Sundarbans.
- Salt tolerant variety of crops was provided to the farmers, whose agricultural lands turned saline after coastal flooding
- The farmers were taught how to prepare bio compost commercially at their fields. They were also trained in using bio-pesticides instead of chemical pesticides which are hazardous to the health of the farmers and also pollute the environment.
Promotion of use of Solar Energy
Renewable energy development is critical to climate change adaptation efforts and hence SEED has been promoting the use of solar energy more and more even in Sagar Island, where grid electricity has reached two years back.
Disaster Preparedness Programme
Every year, the organisation conducts a workshop on disaster preparedness for the communities in Sundarban. During this workshop, the coastal villagers are educated by the specialists on how to stay prepared for any sudden natural disaster with minimum resources they have. They are also trained regarding the necessary equipment to be kept ready for such situations. It might be a mere torch, a stick or a rope, which can be helpful in such natural disasters.
SEED created awareness among the coastal communities of Sundarban about the importance of mangrove plantation as climate adaptation to the threats like cyclones, storms and tidal surges. Participation of the local communities in plantation process was ensured for their own well-being.
A number of workshops on the importance of Biodiversity conservation and restoration were organised in Sundarban since 2009 where reputed scientists from different organisations like Department of Environment, Government of West Bengal, IIT Kharagpur shared their expertise. School level workshops were also organized to aware the students and teachers about the importance of Biodiversity conservation for Climate Change Adaptation.
Alternative Livelihood Training for the Prawn seed collectors
Prawn seed collection is an important livelihood option for a large section of the community in Sundarbans. More than one lakh of the coastal community members are involved with this profession, which is hazardous for the coastal biodiversity. They destroy several other species of fin fishes and mangroves while dragging the fine net. They were trained in homestead fish cultivation and various other organic aquaculture techniques as alternative livelihoods.
Development of appropriate area specific management plan
Based on remote sensing and GIS technology, coupled with sufficient field survey, area specific management plan at the micro level is being developed for different islands of Sundarban.