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Voice Of Bengal::Politics
Dibyendu Ghosal

Conservation of Nature & Wildlife is not possible without voluntary family planning in Sunderbans


   The picture one sees of Sunderban is thatched kucha houses with mud walls, absence of modern amenities like metalled roads, electricityn & medical services, fisherman using non motorised small boats, woman and children collecting prawn seeds, persons occupying vested and forest lands, cleared forests for human habitation, dependence on wood as cooking fuel and stories of man risking their lives from man eating tigers and crocodiles to eke a living. It looks like that development and modern amenities have not reached places which are so close to the seat of power in West Bengal - Kolkata.


   The uncontrolled population growth with low income level from 1.2 million in 1951 census to 3.9 million in 2001 census is primarily responsible for the backwardness of the region and the near total dependence of the people on the natural resource of mangrove ecosystem. A local poacher turned conservationist Pradip Mondal rightly said "Vaansh - Aansh - Dhawansh" which means if you increase your family size (Vaansh), it will lead to division of family assets (Aansh) and ultimate destruction of family(Dhawansh). He said increase in family size has lead to the destruction of the Sunderban area and people are ustanding the benefits of small families.


   The increasing pressure on land has increased the dependence on forests and this has led to depletion and destruction of forest resources. Millions of people depend on Sunderban ecosystem for their livelihood and sustenance through fishing, collection of honey and fuelwood/timber and their number is growing every year. The added millions reduce the purchasing power of the people and keep them poor and it is impossible for them to come out of this vicious circle. Any plan to protect and conserve the Sunderban Forest thus has to focus on the problem of uncontrolled population growth. The sustainable population figure for the Sunderban ecosystem is a matter of debate.


   The poor people in Sunderban area have no idea about modern family planning methods and even if they have an idea they do not know how to access it. The absence of medical centres in this region makes government intervention in this area difficult and increases the dependence of the population on quacks and untrained ayahs (Nurses). NGO's can play a role in this by creating awareness on this issue and helping villagers to get access to voluntary family planning.


   Inspite of limited resources, the work done by the government and NGO?s like WWF and WPSI in Sunderban area is commendable and has been successful in protecting the Royal Bengal Tiger and the fragile eco system in this region to a small extent but a lot more needs to be done. Any conservation plan to protect nature and wildlife will not succeed if voluntary family planning is not integrated in the project plan. Growing human numbers will derail every plan of nature lovers to conserve nature and wildlife and thus the onus falls on the government and NGO's to spread the gospel of voluntary population control.


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