The Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship, has docked in the Sundarbans to campaign for firm action to protect the world's largest mangrove forest in coastal West Bengal from the adverse affects of global warming.
"On Monday, the Sundarbans witnessed a gathering of 12,000 people who sent across a strong message to the world to protect the region from submergence. Today (Tuesday) we are following up with a massive mangrove planting programme," Greenpeace activist Ruchira Talukdar told IANS.
The Rainbow Warrior reached Sagar Island in the Sundarbans Monday from Kolkata, where it reached Oct 12, to highlight the extreme vulnerability of this ecologically sensitive region to a rise in the sea level due to global warming.
"The ship carries on the message to Bali in Indonesia where in December world governments will meet to strengthen the Kyoto Protocol on climate change," Talukdar said.
"Mangrove planting can extend the life of islands facing submergence from sea level rise by only four to five years but what we need is to put pressure on governments to meet their emission standards," she said.
A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans archipelago faces a threat from global warming and attendant climate change. A recent United Nations study revealed that a mere 45 cm rise in the sea level will destroy 75 percent of the forests spread over a 10,000 sq km area in India's eastern state of West Bengal and adjacent Bangladesh.
"There are already 7,000 environmental refugees in the Sunderbans and the numbers can only increase with the sea devouring more islands as a result of global warming and climate change," Pranabes Sanyal, a professor at the School of Oceanographic Studies of Jadavpur University (JU), told IANS.
The school had conducted a 10-year study in and around the Bay of Bengal and concluded that the sea level was rising 3.14 mm a year in the Sunderbans against a global average of two mm, threatening low-lying areas of India and Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, six Greenpeace activists who were arrested for trespassing and scaling a chimney of a thermal power station in East Midnapore to paint "Smoking Kills" on it were granted bail Monday. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for Dec 19.