Sunderbans has many Binas’ in its various corners. Women who have been impacted by livelihood losses arising out of climate conflict and unknowingly pushed into trafficking.
“A person called me while I was walking and tried to speak with me. And all of a sudden they made me inhale something, after which I don’t remember anything,” says Bina*, a survivor leader and trainee at Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra (GGBK).
Thousands of girls like Bina go missing in India’s West Bengal every year, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. The number of girls reported missing in West Bengal increased from 5,986 in 2016 to 6,640 in 2020. Around a third of those missing officially come from Bina’s native – Sunderbans.
““Floods and saline water destroyed everything. There were no jobs, many people starved. At this juncture, my father went to Chennai in search of a job. During that time, there was no money for my education as well. My mother had arranged some money, with which I went to the market to buy some stationery,” she adds.
The world’s largest mangrove forest, Sunderbans, is facing the rage of extreme climate events. Climate change is turning the water and soil saline in the region, affecting the coastal communities, their health and livelihoods. According to a report, the Sunderban has been hit by four major cyclones in the last three years, killing 250 people and causing a loss of nearly USD 20 billion. With worsening cyclones, sea level rise, soil and water salinisation, comes worsening poverty, and living conditions.
“Every two-three years, the dam near Matla river breaks, flooding everything with saline water. This destroys all our crops, kills fish in the ponds. Due to this we face a lot of difficulties, even starvation,” says a farmer and participant of programmes at GGBK.
Livelihood rehabilitation has come in the form of GGBK, a non-profit organisation, that is training the communities in the affected regions. They encourage the coastal communities to adapt to organic farming and grow mangroves. With more communities facing the brunt of climate change, we need to act #NowNotTomorrow.