Amphan-Hit Sundarbans: Damage 3 times worse than Bulbul’s
The lush green banks of the Shibsa river winding through the Sundarbans, once outlined by the beautiful keora and golpata trees, have turned all grey and pale yellow.
The devastation of the world's largest mangrove forest by the super cyclone Amphan became increasingly visible as the boat carrying this correspondent sailed a few kilometres down the Shibsa in the Khulna Range of West Sundarbans on May 29.
It looked like a graveyard of trees, many uprooted, broken, and leafless, blown and smashed into the forest floor. Even the gewa trees, that grow away from the shore, are standing like skeletons.
According to the Forest Department, Amphan's damage to the Sundarbans on May 20 is three times bigger than that of cyclone Bulbul's on November 10 last year.
During Amphan, around 12,358 forest trees have been broken and uprooted. The damage to the forest department's infrastructure is assessed at Tk 2.15 crore.
In comparison, cyclone Bulbul damaged 4,589 trees in the Sundarbans and infrastructure worth Tk 62.85 lakh.
After the cyclone, the Forest Department formed four committees based on the four ranges of the Sundarbans to assess the damage.
A compilation of the reports submitted by the committees to the Conservator of Forests in the Khulna region, showed around 12,332 trees have been broken and uprooted by Amphan in Khulna and Satkhira ranges of West Sundarbans.
Only 26 trees in the Sharankhola and Chadpai range of the eastern part of the forest were damaged. However, timber worth Tk 7,06,830 recovered from smugglers was washed away by the tidal waters in East Sundarbans.
Among tree species, garans worth Tk 10,10,560 received the hardest blow.
The report also mentioned that damages to infrastructures including jetties, wooden trails and watchtowers in the western and eastern part were Tk 47.50 lakh and Tk 1.8 crores, respectively.
Regarding the fauna, Modinul Hasan, Khulna divisional forest officer, said harm to wildlife did not come to their notice during the survey.
Md Mahmood Hossain, professor of Forestry and Wood Technology department of Khulna University, supported the findings.
He said since the cyclone mainly went over India, the damage to the flora and fauna of the Sundarbans has not been massive.
The compiled report also mentioned that 40 out of around 100 freshwater ponds were contaminated with saline water by tidal waves during Amphan.
"As the salt water entered the ponds, the forest animals as well as the forest guards are having some problems. Now, under the pond re-excavation project, rain water will be preserved by removing the saline water from the contaminated ponds," said Md Moyeenuddin Khan, conservator of forest of the Khulna region.
He assured that with time the Sundarbans will be able to overcome the loss caused by Amphan just like it recovered after Sidr, Aila and Bulbul.
Md Bashirul Al Mamun, divisional forest officer (DFO) of West Sundarbans, told The Daily Star that the worst-affected areas of the forest are by the Rayamangal and Hariabhanga rivers near the Indian border.
"The storm damaged several stations, outposts, jetties and watch towers. However, we got an immediate allocation of Tk 16 lakh for repair," said the DFO.