Time was when men set off from Kumirmari for fishes, honey and firewood to the core area of Sundarbans knowing well that they are in step with death. Often they returned home with deep gashes on their bodies, sometimes sans a hand or a leg after an encounter with the tigers.
Sometimes a group returned with parts of the bodies of an able bodied man, the remnants of the head of a family who had set out to bring succour to his near and dear ones. But times have changed for the better thanks to the efforts of Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) a NGO and the state forest department where a larger number of men folk need not risk their lives and limbs to earn their living.
They are being deployed as “mangrove stewards” who look up after the vegetation from which this wondrous delta spanning India and Bangladesh derives its name – Sundarbans. The “mangrove stewards” in a joint move with the police and state forest department have cut down illegal felling thereby extending the area of the mangroves which stand as a rock steady rampart between the mainland and natural calamities.
Fish feeds produced locally are distributed among the villagers and also sold elsewhere. Widespread use of pesticides have been cut down following prolonged persuasion and use of organic manures have stepped up. The result is introduction of cultivation of indigenous varieties of paddies like Dudheshwar,Cheena Kaminiand a slew of vegetables.
Fingerlings set free in the local ponds, rearing of crabs and local varieties of bees which do not fly away have improved the lot of the people in 182 gram panchayats who no longer have to look death in the face to earn their living. Keep it up.