It was 4pm. I was awakened from my afternoon nap by the continuous splashing sound outside. I got up and came out at the balcony of my hotel. What a wonderful scene awaited me! The dark green mangrove forests looked even brighter and youthful with the continuous shower! As if the forest was dancing in the rain! I just stood there, enjoying the beauty, delicacy and mysticism of nature and time flowed by, unnoticed.
I just remembered the description given by my tour operator – “With just a few hours’ drive from Kolkata, the atmosphere simply starts changing as you cross the Bhagirathi River and enter the forest area. You start enjoying nature and your mind automatically goes into a peaceful state. The greenery of the forests soothes your eyes and mind. Here you can find the tall ‘Sundari’ trees with their roots spread wide and the mangrove forests that are exclusive of the Sundarban area.”
Yes! It’s SUNDARBAN, a major mangrove rain-forest, the home of Royal Bengal Tiger. My tour was really accomplished with the wish to be lost on my own by feeling the total bliss in nature! But, as I was slowly getting engrossed in the beauty of nature, somewhere in the back of my mind a continuous thought gave me an uncanny feeling! Shall we be able to enjoy this beauty for long? Shall our next generations get the privilege to witness this experience for long in the future?
I became thoughtful, came back to my room and ordered for coffee with some snacks, which was served quickly by a boy aged about 25. After getting Rs.30 as tips, he happily shared that, he studied till school final, and instead of going for his family profession of bamboo-furniture and farming, started working in the hotel and was earning happily. Also his friends, working as local guide or tourist taxi driver or just with a tea-cigarette stall nearby, were earning well.
Yesterday, at the hotel lobby, I heard some local people discussing that, the rate of fish was going high, and one of the prime reasons being the rise in demand in local tourist lodge and hotels, while, the second, being decreasing availability. That was the starting point, from where my mind started sensing different vibes. It is true that tourism results in socio-economical rise of the tourist area, creating a grape-vine effect of money, which flows from tourist activity to all levels of society. Like the boy working in the hotel, lots of people have shifted from their traditional family work to something more promising. They are earning well and spending well, too. Better roadways have increased public and private vehicles, with more use of two-wheelers instead of cycles. Students are going for higher education, as new high-schools and colleges are coming up. Being happy with the social prosperity some of the farmers have just given away their farming land to schools, colleges, hospitals without a single penny in return, just for a better tomorrow. Women with children, whose husbands once got attacked and were taken away by tiger while collecting honey, are now engaged in cleaning and housekeeping works in hotels. Progress is visible at all levels of society. The city tour agents are happy too, with increasing tourism of Sundarban.
But, are we really heading for a better tomorrow? Is there nothing alarming behind this so-called prosperity?
Due to increase in water pollution, water resources are going down. Though fishermen are shifting to modern methods of fishing, but their number is decreasing day by day. Increase in population, supported with increased income, demands more land for civilization and often these lands get deducted from forest buffer area or farmland. Increased use of modern livelihood facilities affects nature. Shift from country-professions to city-professions is resulting in civil growth, but removing the flavor of country-side nature. This may be slow, very slow, but strongly steady.
If this is one side of the story, here comes the other. Farmers are selling their lands not only for the betterment of their next generation, but also due to increasingly damaged lands, as the sea is encroaching. Sundarban, as a matter of fact, is a source of wood for fuel as well as furniture and decoration. In spite of legal constraint, trees are being cut by locals, illegally and unscientifically. Survey shows, effects of recent cyclones and storms, which previously got absorbed by the dense forest, are now-a-days more aggressively devastating. The more we are becoming civilized, the more we are being attacked by nature itself.
Although the main attraction of Sundarban is the Royal Bengal Tiger and lots of time I hear people asking, “Shall we surely get to see the tiger?”, but the greatest enjoyment is to feel the natural beauty of the forest, as the Sundarban is the major mangrove forest among 2 of India. The recent cyclone, “Aila”, left nearly 130 tigers trace-less. As we are interacting more with the forest, the natural flora and fauna becomes endangered. Lots of birds, fishes, other water creatures, trees, animals are slowly but steadily going extinct. Some rare dolphin species, found only at this part of the world, became extinct due to the use of troller for fishing.
In this context, a question comes in mind-do the tourists really feel for the forest or, do they just think about their personal pleasure? When the tourists come in large groups and visit the Sundarban, mainly to get a glimpse of the tiger, they are generally taken deeper into the forest. This entry into the silent, calm, quiet, peaceful forest, not only disturbs the wild animals, but also harms the ecological balance of the forest. As Sundarban emerges as one of the major tourist spots of Asia, more and more hotels are coming up. Some of them have the look of a village with cottage-type rooms, mostly built in the inner parts of the forests or adjacent, for the tourists to get a better view of the wild animals, including the tiger, sitting in their rooms itself. Equipped with all the modern amenities, ironically, these also facilitate the destruction of the ecological balance. Declaring it as a world heritage site may have fastened the process.
Post ‘Aila’, the economy of the Sundarban has suffered a lot & the lifestyle of the local people is also being affected. But, people are trying hard, with the help of the Government, to revive it as one of the major tourist spots of West Bengal. It’s quite obvious that the local people find it quite easier and profitable to be involved in the tourist activities, as it fetches them more money, instead of getting involved in cultivation, fishery, honey collection, that involves a lot more hard work, with comparatively less amount of money. But, they are quite oblivion to the fact that, at the end of all this what is actually in danger is the ecological balance of Sundarban.
When we, as tourists, enjoy the place as a spot of relaxation, beauty and peace, then, is it not our responsibility to feel for it, too? Why do we have to be bound by rules and norms? Why don’t we keep the place neat and clean, and not spoil it by our harmful pollution? Why do we tend to disturb the wild animals, which are actually very helpful to the nature? Instead of cutting down trees, building new hotels, thinking of new ways to promote tourism, it’s more important to maintain the ecological system of the forest – as, only then can tourism be promoted.
It’s just like the ecological cycle of life – everything is interlinked. It’s high time we re-think and re-consider our thoughts and do feel for the nature, trees, animals, birds, fishes, insects – for our better living on this earth! We should leave nature at its best.
About The Author:
Mr. Debashis Das, a professional chef, with over 12 years of experience in the Industry, Training & Education, is presently working as the HOD of a reputed Hotel Management college at Kolkata, W.B., India.
Basically, a workaholic by nature, he loves to spend his leisure time browsing the internet, cooking & writing. You can find his work at his Blog.
With the thought of non-availability of enough upgraded books on Culinary Theory, he is planning and working on writing book on this department of hotel industry. He has a consultation of his own, providing physical and process set-up of Hotels & Restaurants.
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