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Climate Change and its Effects in West Bengal

Ground Report | New Delhi: Climate Change in West Bengal; It has to be accepted that climate change is a global phenomenon and is happening for real. Rising sea and temperature levels are proof of that. Increasing temperature levels is mainly caused due to increase in pollution levels resulting in an increase in the surface temperature of seas and the formation of cyclones, thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rain in the nearby areas. Due to this, the livelihoods of farmers are getting affected as their crops are not growing properly.

The change of weather has resulted in survival and existential threat to people living near the coastline. Their source of income as well as health and safety are at risk. Due to the cyclones and extreme weather conditions especially near the coastline fisherman in places like Digha, Mandarmani, and Diamond Harbour are facing life threats daily during their operating times in the Bay of Bengal. The effect of this change in the weather pattern has also affected the local farmers. Their produce gets affected as the saline water of the Bay of Bengal flows inland mixing up with the fresh river water used for irrigation and takes away the rich soil destroying the crops. This problem is very commonly seen in the Sunderban Delta in West Bengal followed by coastal regions used for farming in Odisha.

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On Wednesday, the 29th of Sept 2021 the Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore, Kolkata stated predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall (07-20 cm) very likely to occur at one or two places over Purulia, East, and West Midnapore, Bankura, Jhargram districts in West Bengal. Southwest monsoon has been vigorous over Gangetic West Bengal and over Jharkhand. Heavy to very heavy rainfall has occurred at few places in Howrah, Kolkata, Jhargram as well as West Midnapore districts in the Gangetic West Bengal.                        

According to IMD forecasts recorded by the Press Trust of India on 26th of September 2021, “Heavy rain was likely to pound most of the districts in southern West Bengal on Tuesday owing to a low-pressure belt that is developing in the Bay of Bengal. A cyclonic formation was likely to emerge near the Myanmar coast on Monday and under its effect the low-pressure belt will be developed within the subsequent 24 hours.” (Climate Change in West Bengal)

Mr. Debarshi Duttagupta of Kolkata Cloudchasers, an amateur group of storm chasers and weather enthusiasts stated, “Due to the rise in average surface temperature of the Bay of Bengal the severity of cyclones has been increasing from the past few years. This should be a matter of huge concern as super cyclone formations like Yash, Amphan, Fani, and Bulbul are becoming common now. These cyclones are not only affecting West Bengal but are creating devastating effects in Andaman and Nicobar, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Previously West Bengal was not much affected by these storms as they went generally to Odisha and Bangladesh but now the situation is changing and this is very scary for cities like Kolkata.”

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Every year during the monsoon season, the city of Kolkata is facing waterlogging problems like never before. The situation is so hostile that boats have been used recently by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to bring out people from the waterlogged areas and provide help.

Being known as the Mangrove Man, environmentalist and teacher Mr. Umashankar Mandal working in the Sunderbans from 2009 to plant and save the mangrove trees shares some of his thoughts on this. “After the cyclonic storm Aila in 2009, the Sunderban delta was pretty badly affected. The loss of rich cultivable land and freshwater was immense. Seeing the loss I made up my mind to do something for protecting the land. It started with a donation of medicines, clothes, and other essentials to the affected families but after a period of time, I also started planting the mangrove trees. Planting mangroves helps in restricting cyclones or storms to enter the mainland as they act as a wall and takes the blows on them thus reducing the damage of crops, fishing ponds, plants, livestock, and human life.

In recent years, the rate of storms taking place has increased manifold. As time goes this will increase. As long as we don’t plant trees and stop polluting our environment this rapid climate change cannot be prevented. And as for prevention, it’s very tough as it has already started. If you see properly villages after villages are being abandoned by their occupants as they are moving inland towards towns and cities.

This is resulting in increasing pressure on the cities like Kolkata as the population demographics are shifting in multiple gears. More population means that more pressure on finite resources like groundwater and fuel leading to depletion of these resources at an alarming rate. Previously groundwater was known as a renewable resource but the rapidly increasing dependency on it for various use has turned it into a finite resource.” (Climate Change in West Bengal)

Depleting freshwater levels are a high concern for amateur enthusiasts and environmentalists like Debarshi Duttagupta and Umashankar Mandal. It is very unfortunate that the general public as well as the government has turned a blind eye towards this. Districts like Purulia, Asansol, parts of the Bardhaman district are facing droughts over a few years and the rate of affected farmers is increasing. Floods are also common in areas in Howrah, Hoogly, Haldia, Tamluk, and North and South 24 Paraganas. This has also resulted in the spread of infectious diseases like Dengue, Malaria.

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