Sabuj Sangha’s bid to bring ‘PARIVARTAN’ to the remote Sagar Island, in association with HDFC Bank
The biggest mangrove forest in the world is the Sundarbans and Sagar Island is located at the westernmost point of the Sundarbans. The delta reaches Bangladesh in the east and the Indian state of West Bengal in the west, approx. 40,000 square kilometres (15,444 square miles). The geographical map of the world shows that the Sundarbans is one of the most isolated regions. For many years, the region has attracted both domestic and foreign tourists because of its diverse cultural population and natural environment. The majority of Sundarbans' residents depend on the land, the sea, or the forest for their livelihood. Several islands of the Sundarbans region are still quite remote and difficult to access even today. Also, this region is quite vulnerable to natural calamities.
With a population of more than 200,000 and expanding, Sagar is the largest of the Indian islands in the delta. Recurring storms and increasing waves, severe climate-driven hazards have a negative impact on the island's ecosystem. These concerns include tidal gushes, seawater inundation, permanent land submersion, recurrence of droughts, and water scarcity. Following the trend of long-term weather variables responsible for the climate of the island holds importance in adaptation and mitigation strategies to sustain food production. The impact of climate change in future would be quite severe in mega deltas in Asia, including the Sundarbans in West Bengal. Constant saline seawater flooding of the island's low-lying coastal regions has the negative effect of posing a major danger to the population's ability to support itself through food and other sources, as well as to the ecosystem.
(Pond Renovated at Dakshin Haradhanpur village)
Owing to such challenges, it became important to bring a sustainable agriculture model. Sabuj Sangha of Nandakumarpur in West Bengal implemented “PARIVARTAN - Holistic Rural Development Project in partnership with HDFC Bank in the Sagar Island of South 24 Parganas District in West Bengal from 2021-2022. The project goal is Integrated village development in Sagar Island through Climate Resilience and Appropriate Livelihood Options for Marginalized People. The Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP) is a flagship programme of HDFC Bank that attempts to provide rural communities, with the tools and means to grow and prosper. This is done through a wide variety of training and institution-building programmes, supported by relevant infrastructure.
One of the focus areas of the project is Natural Resource Management which covers the Construction of Rain Water Harvesting Structures through the Renovation of Community Ponds. The ponds on this island are the main source of sweet water reserve for agriculture, human use and for the animals too. As Sagar Island is a cyclone and flood-prone area therefore contamination of saline water in the ponds is a common phenomenon. To protect the ecological balance of the project geography, Sabuj Sangha renovated six community ponds during the year 2022-23. These six community ponds have been constructed in five villages viz. Radhakrishnapur, Rudranagar, Purusottompur, Dakshin Haradhanpur and Sumatinagar. All these community ponds are looked after by a respective pond committee formed from among the user households. Towards sustainability, the pond committees collect donations from the member households for the maintenance of the water structure. These pond committees also utilize the water resource of the community pond and the land area on the embankment for the cultivation of fruits/vegetable, for sweet water fish culture. The high-raised embankment also protects the sweet pond water from saline water contamination during a flood situation.
(Radhakrishnapur Pond renovated under PARIVARTAN Initiative)
Shree Rajkrishna Maity, Secretary of Pond Committee, Radhakrishnapur village and a user household of the pond mentioned that renovation of the community pond has provided adequate irrigation for his agri-field. He also mentioned that “The renovation of the pond supported the promotion of livelihood of 103 families through sweet water fish cultivation and fruits/vegetable cultivation on the embankment.”
Shree Nirmal Bera, one of the members of the Pond Committee of Dakshin Haradhanpur village mentioned that the renovated community pond of the village was almost lying unutilized due to siltation and aquatic plants. After renovation, it has become a good asset for the user community. Now his betel vine is getting enough irrigation. He also expressed hope to get better profit from his betel vine.
(Pond Renovation at Dakshin Haradhanpur village)
A total of 42560 cubic feet of surface water harvesting capacity was created to meet the agricultural needs, directly benefiting 305 households covering 1525 population and around 760 animals. This intervention increased the volume of groundwater recharge and helped reduce the water scarcity of households and livestock. Another important impact of the intervention is the protection of the embankment of these ponds from entering saline sea/flood water. The high raise embankment of these ponds secure the sweet water of the pond from saline contamination so that during cyclone and flood situation the high embankment could store the water and the households and animals can consume the sweet water from those ponds. The members of the Pond Committee and the beneficiaries expressed their gratitude to HDFC Bank and Sabuj Sangha for renovating the community pond, which encouraged families in leading a better life and helped in the management of the natural resource.