Location and Values: The Sundarbans National Park is located in the centre of the vast Sundarbans mangrove forest, occupying part of the delta at the mouth of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers in the north-east Indian State of West Bengal. The wider Sundarbans is the largest area of mangrove forest in the world, covering some 10,000 km2 between India and Bangladesh. The (relatively small) world heritage area is estimated to comprise about 55% mangrove forest land and 45% wetlands in the form of tidal rivers, creeks, canals and estuarine areas. The mangrove habitat is especially rich in species of flora and fauna, supports the single largest population of tigers in the world, and serves as a sanctuary for other rare and endangered species including an endemic terrapin, marine turtles and river dolphins. Ecologically, the Sundarbans is in a state of continuous change as a result of the dynamic interaction of monsoon rain flooding, delta formation, tidal influence and plant colonization.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s recent Conservation Outlook Assessment there is significant concern over the conservation status of this site. The IUCN report notes that ‘the values of the Sundarbans National Park are highly threatened by multiple ongoing processes both within and external to the site, and are showing signs of deterioration. While it appears that the site’s biodiversity values (rare and threatened mammals, birds and reptiles) are largely currently in a promising situation, degradation of the floral diversity and on-going ecological processes has been, and continues to be, significant. Moreover, should the intensity of these threats increase into the future, the situation for the Sundarbans’ National Park’s rare and threatened species could alter dramatically. Sea level rise, hydrological alteration and coastal erosion have been severe, and the long-term impact of climate change on the integrity of the site’s values is a cause for great concern. Conservation programmes for rare and threatened vertebrates , law enforcement for illegal activities, community participation in site management and alternative livelihoods, as well as reduction of human-wildlife conflicts have been effective. However, funding and capacity are currently inadequate to maintain the sites value’s sufficiently in the face of the multiple threats to the site, and particularly under increasing population and climatic pressures into the future. Studies into the resilience of the site and its values under changes to ecological processes and climate change are necessary in order to develop and refine effective management action. Moreover, transboundary cooperation with the Sundarbans, Bangladesh World Heritage site should be considered and may prove essential to develop effective regional strategies for climate change adaptation.’
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description