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Climate Change Threatens Sundarbans and World Heritage Sites

Climate change and human interference may destroy much of Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh as well as 25 other World Heritage sites, says a new UNESCOreport.//

"Sea-level rise is the greatest threat and challenge for sustainable adaptation within South and Southeast Asia. A 45 cm rise in global sea levels would lead to the destruction of 75 percent of the Sundarbans mangroves," the report warned.

The report, "Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage", features 26 examples - including Sundarbans (in India and Bangladesh), Sagarmatha National Park (Nepal), the Tower of London, Timbuktu in Mali and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The World Heritage List has 830 sites across the world.

Along with global sea level rise, there is a continuous natural subsidence in the Sundarbans, causing a rise of about 2.2 mm per year. The resulting net rise rate is 3.1 mm per year at Sagar, the biggest delta of Sundarbans, the report added.

The consequences in terms of flooding of low-lying deltas, retreat of shorelines, salinitisation and acidification of soils, and changes in the water table raise serious concerns for the well being of the local population.

Additional sources of stress, not related to climate change, include the diversion of upstream freshwater inflow of the Ganges by the Farraka Barrage in India since 1974 to alleviate the rapid siltation in the port of Kolkata. This barrage diversion induced a 40 percent decrease of the dry season flow.

Jointly, the sea level rise and lower freshwater flow in winter will also result in increased salinity in the area, threatening the conservation of the Sundarbans mangroves.

Spread over 10,000 sq km, the Sundarbans, the largest of such forests in the world, lie within the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal. A complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of mangrove fore
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