The Ghoramara Island in the Ganga estuary in West Bengal is slowly succumbing to rising sea levels brought on by climate change, upturning the lives of the people who have started migrating in large numbers
For people living on the islands in the Ganga estuary, climate change is a demon they battle every day. For them it is not any abstract concept; it is a reality that impacts their lives and livelihoods here and now. It is nowhere clearer than in the Sagar administrative block at the southern fringe of West Bengal opening up to the Bay of Bengal. A part of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem, it is one of the blocks that are most vulnerable to climate change in India.
The Sagar block, which has a population of around 200,000, has to not only grapple with a rising sea level at a rate that is nearly 250% higher than global rate (8 mm per year compared with 3.23 mm per year, according to the school of oceanographic studies of Jadavpur University in Kolkata), but also stands exposed to increasing high intensity cyclones and storms. The rising sea has already sunk Lohachara island in Sagar block, has eaten nearly three-fourths of Ghoramara island and severely affected the bigger Sagar island.
The story of Ghoramara shows that how climate change is changing the very way people live — how it divides families, breaks social taboos and hasten forced migration. The largely poor people in the island (45% live below the poverty line) are under enormous socioeconomic stress that has upturned their lives.
All photographs by Anup Bhattacharya