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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 234-244

The ‘Fluid Landscape’ of the Sundarbans: Critically Reviewing the ‘Managed Retreat’ Discourse

Institute of Social Studies Trust, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Prama Mukhopadhyay
Institute of Social Studies Trust, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_210_20

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The Sundarbans, spread across 10,200 sq. km in the lower deltaic region of Bengal, is the world's largest pro-grading delta. Most climatologists acknowledge that this fragile ecosystem, cutting across Bangladesh and India, will bear the brunt of climate change. It is estimated that the region, facing sea level rise and intensification of cyclonic activities, will experience the disastrous effects of global warming; and scientists have been expressing their concerns about the viability of human settlements there in the foreseeable future. In India, some researchers have floated the idea of 'Managed Retreat' of people from certain areas of the deltaic floodplains in a bid to 'conserve the mangroves and the ecosystem' of the Sundarbans. This postulation, first published as the Delta Vision: 2050 for the World-Wide-Fund for Nature India (WWF-India) in 2011, and discussed in the following years, in various platforms and research journals, has been advocating a 'phased and systematic outmigration' (Ghosh 2012) from the region, citing the 'Dutch Room for River' project as an exemplary ideal to be mirrored. This article will try to unpack the impact of this proposal on the local communities, living in tandem with the deltaic landscape for generations, if such a strategy is adopted.

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