People of the Sunderban's take action to arrest sea level rise

Mangrove planting started on Sagar Island; over ten thousand gather to raise concern about global warming

Press release - October 15, 2007
KOLKATA, India — Residents of Sagar Island today joined hands with Greenpeace to start a Mangrove planting drive. An initiative led by Professor Sugata Hazra from Jadavapur University*, this will arrest the rate of coastal erosion due to Global warming on these endangered islands. Yesterday, over ten thousand people, most of them school children gathered at the Gangasagar asking for immediate action globally to tackle the worst impacts of climate change, which impact their daily lives. An unprecedented rate of sea level rise has already submerged some of the Sunderban islands and poses an imminent threat to the others. While the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow is visiting the eastern coast of India*, Greenpeace is taking a series of actions to highlight the urgent need to tackle emissions and combat climate change.

The Rainbow Warrior docked at Sundarbans. Greenpeace is there to highlight the threat of climate change to these ecologically fragile islands.

The Rainbow Warrior is in India en route to   Bali, where it will arrive during the United Nations Climate change council meeting for 2007. The meeting this year will focus on post Kyoto commitments for nations. Greenpeace is campaigning globally as well as in India for a clear mandate and timeframe to reduce emissions and combat climate change. (Attached Bali Mandate Briefing Paper)

Soumyabrata Rahut, Greenpeace Climate and Energy expert said "the sinking Sunderban islands are one of the first climate hotspots in India. It sets a precedent for the impacts of sea level rise which poor populations in low lying coastal India will face in coming. Increased displacement of people due to loss of habitation and land will increase India's count of climate refugees and add to the burden of poverty under which we are already reeling. At this critical juncture where we only have eight years to act, strong and time bound mitigation measures must accompany measures for adaptation"

According to the findings from the report of "vulnerability assessment of the Sunderbans island system in the perspective of climate change" by Prof. Hazra, the vulnerability of the Sunderbans to climate impacts is very high in comparison to other coastal areas of India*. Over 70,000 people from the Sunderbans are under the risk of losing their habitat permanently due to sea level rise, increased cyclone intensity and flooding by the year 2030.

Prof Sugata Hazra, Professor Jadavpur University says "Mangrove planting will arrest the rate of coastal erosion, making these islands survive longer. This is an immediate adaptation measure, and the people for the sake of their lives and livelihoods are taking this action collectively. However, it is evident that unless large scale measures to stop climate change by means of emission reduction are taken globally, a substantial part of the Sunderbans might disappear from the map!"

Soumyabrata added "a country like India cannot afford the costs required to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Moreover, with a whopping 823 million poor population, India is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. While developed countries must take a much larger step to combat climate change, in our own interest we need to take definite measures to reduce CO2 emissions. We must de-carbonize our development. It is an energy revolution now or climate stability never situation"

For further information, contact

Prof. Sugata Hazra, Director, School of Oceanographic studies, Jadavpur University- Kolkata – 0-9339873482;

Soumyabrata Rahut – Climate and Energy Campaigner – Greenpeace India;

Ruchira Talukdar – Greenpeace Communications - +0-9900264127

Notes to Editor

o Prof. Hazra's report on the disappearing Sunderban islands in 2002 created clearly outlined for the first time the threat from sea level rise due to global warming to the Sunderbans. He is an advocate of mangrove plantation to arrest the rate of coastal erosion and for carbon fixing in the soil (which absorbs and there by reduces CO2 from the atmosphere)

o About the Climate Six – On Oct 11th, 6 Greenpeace activists were arrested for climbing on to a smoke stack of the Kolaghat Thermal Power Station and painting "Smoking Kills" to highlight the threat that coal burning poses to the climate. On Friday, their bail was rejected by the district court. In the meantime, solidarity for the activists was being expressed from all quarters. The Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace flagship, sailed into Kolkata with the message "Arrest Climate Change, free the climate six" on its sails. During the mass congregation at Gangasagar on Oct 15 th, which was help at the same time when the activists were being presented in court for a second time, concern was being raised about the lack of action to stop climate change and save the islands from destruction and it was being asked that the six activists be freed. The activists were granted bail yesterday afternoon!

o According to the report , the rate of relative sea level rise as measured from the tidal records of the Sagar Islands is found to be 3.4mm per year, which is substantially more than the global average of 1-2mm per year. The rate of sea surface temperature increase is .019 degrees centigrade per year, which might lead to a 1 degree temperature by 2050. As the rate of coastal erosion is found to be strongly co relatable with the rate of sea level rise, this implies increased erosion and submergence of the island system.