Transformation of the Sundarbans Eco-region: Lessons from Past Approaches and Suggested Development Options

  • Anamitra Anurag DandaEmail author
  • Mowdudur Rahman
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 30)


Transformation of forests to agriculture is common but the scale of transformation of the Sundarbans under British administration was such that it changed the physical configuration of the region. Post-independence, despite the knowledge that brackish river water is a serious constraint, rice cultivation has been persisted with. Rising population and tidal waters, declining land and productivity, as well as more intense storms are making the already non-conducive situation worse. Options for resilient and sustainable development in the eco-region, therefore, have to be explored beyond climate-sensitive primary production systems. In a biodiversity rich area with a large population, finding resilient and sustainable development options involve direct trade-off. Under such situations Portfolio Decision Analysis (PDA) framework is useful in allocating management actions to pursue options that maximise natural assets while minimising impact on human assets. Based on a hierarchy of objectives and criteria, Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) is a valuable tool to decide on options ranging from elevation recovery of forested and inhabited islands, brackish water culture fishery, and tourism, to rapid urbanization in safer locations and planned retreat under 2 °C warming scenario, a very likely prospect at the turn of the century. Given that the currently implemented policies are not strong enough to achieve the pledges governments have made under the Paris Agreement, the article examines tourism in some detail, including jointly managed trans-boundary tourism. Finally, the article examines the challenges in realising the potential of jointly managed tourism in Sundarbans and proposes ways of overcoming the challenges.


Sundarbans Mangrove Biodiversity World Heritage Site Sustainable development Portfolio Decision Analysis (PDA) Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) Eco-tourism 


  1. Adger WN, Brown K, Nelson DR et al (2011) Resilience implications of policy responses to climate change. Climate Change 2(5):757–766Google Scholar
  2. Andersen MC, Thompson B, Boykin K (2004) Spatial risk assessment across large landscapes with varied land use: lessons from a conservation assessment of military lands. Risk Anal 24(5):1231–1242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boyd E, Osbahr H, Ericksen PJ et al (2008) Resilience and climatizing development: examples and policy implications. Development 51(3):390–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brooks N, Adger WN, Kelly PM (2005) The determinants of vulnerability and adaptive capacity at the national level and the implications for adaptation. Glob Environ Change A 15(2):151–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chakraborty SC (2005) The Sundarbans – terrain, legends, gods and myths. Geogr Rev India 67(1):1–11Google Scholar
  6. Convertino M, Valverde LJ Jr (2013) Portfolio decision analysis framework for value-focused ecosystem management. PLoS One 8(6):e65056. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eaton RM (1990) Human settlement and colonization in the Sundarbans, 1200–1750. Agric Hum Values 7(2):6–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Forsyth T (2007) Promoting the “development dividend” of climate technology transfer: can cross-sector partnerships help? World Dev 35:1684–1698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hunter WW (1875) A statistical account of Bengal, Vol. I, Part-II: Sundarbans. Bengal Government Press, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  10. Hussain MZ (2014) Bangladesh Sundarban Delta vision 2050: a first step in its formulation – document 2: a compilation of background information. IUCN Bangladesh Country Office, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  11. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. IPCC (2012) Summary for policymakers. In: Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation (SREX). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Khalil GM (1992) Cyclones and storm surges in Bangladesh: some mitigative measures. Nat Hazards 6(1):11–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lemos MC, Agrawal A, Johns O et al (2013) Building adaptive capacity to climate change in less developed countries. In: Asrar GR (ed) Climate science for serving society: research, modeling and prediction priorities, OSC monograph reviews. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  15. Malczewski J (2006) GIS-based multi-criteria decision analysis: a survey of the literature. Int J Geogr Inf Sci 20(7):249–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mirza MMQ (2003) Climate change and extreme weather events: can developing countries adapt? Clim Pol 3:233–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mukherjee AK, Tiwari KK (1984) Mangrove ecosystem changes under induced stress: the case history of the Sundarban, West Bengal, India. In: Soepadmo E (ed) Proceedings of the Asian symposium on mangrove environment. Research and Management, Kuala Lumpur 1980Google Scholar
  18. Odd N (1980) Mathematical model studies of the Irrawaddy Delta. Hydraulics Research Station, WallingfordGoogle Scholar
  19. Pargiter FE (1934) A revenue history of the Sundarbans, from 1765 to 1870. Bengal Government Press, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  20. Rockstrom J, Klum M (2015) Big world small planet: abundance within planetary boundaries. Yale University Press, New Haven/LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Rogers KG, Goodbred SL (2014) The Sundarbans and Bengal Delta: the world’s largest tidal mangrove and delta system. In: Kale VS (ed) Landscapes and landforms of India. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Sarkar SC (2010) The Sundarbans: folk deities, monsters and mortals. Social Science Press, New Delhi, p 88Google Scholar
  23. Schiermeier Q (2014) Holding back the tide. Nature 508:164–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schipper L, Pelling M (2006) Disaster risk, climate change and international development: scope for, and challenges to integration. Disasters 30(1):19–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sengupta RK (1972) Importance of the Sundarbans region in West Bengal’s economy. In: Bagchi KG (ed) The Bhagirathi-Hooghly Basin: Proceedings of the interdisciplinary symposium, Calcutta, 1970Google Scholar
  26. Strauss BH, Kulp S, Levermann A (2015) Mapping choices: carbon, climate, and rising seas, our global legacy. Climate Central Research Report, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  27. Surging Seas Seeing Choices (2015) Climate Central, Princeton. Accessed 1 Aug 2017
  28. Townsend AK (1987) Introduction. In: Proceedings of the workshop on the commons in South Asia: societal pressures and environmental integrity in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  29. Turner FJ (1962) The frontier in American history. Dover Publications, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Warner K, Kreft S, Zissener M et al (2012) Insurance solutions in the context of climate change-related loss and damage. Policy Brief No. 6, The Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), UNU-EHS, BonnGoogle Scholar
  31. World Bank (2010) Economics of adaptation to climate change: Bangladesh, Vol. 1, Main Report. The World Bank Group, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  32. WWF (2017) Sundarbans in a global perspective: long term adaptation and development.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WWF-IndiaKolkataIndia
  2. 2.Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation, BangladeshKhulnaBangladesh

Personalised recommendations