Air Pollution Threatens the Sundarbans Mangrove Ecosystem

Air Pollution Threatens the Sundarbans Mangrove Ecosystem


A recent study by leading environmental scientists has raised alarms about the growing threat of air pollution to the Sundarbans, a crucial mangrove ecosystem in West Bengal.

GS-03 (Environment)

About Sundarbans:

  • The Sundarbans is a vast mangrove forest located on the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal.
  • This Biosphere Reserve encompasses the Sundarban Tiger Reserve, Sundarban National Park (core area), Halliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary, with the Sajnakhali Wildlife Sanctuary serving as its buffer zone.
  • Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sundarbans is renowned for its rich biodiversity.
  • Flora: The region boasts moist tropical forests and tidal forests, characterized by a variety of mangrove species that thrive in the unique saline environment.
  • Fauna: The Sundarbans is home to an array of wildlife, including the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger, the Estuarine Crocodile, the Gangetic Dolphin, and the Water Monitor Lizard, among many others.

Challenges Facing the Sundarbans:

  • Climate change is also linked to more frequent and intense cyclones. These powerful storms can cause significant physical damage to the mangroves and disrupt the sediment patterns crucial for their survival.
  • Pollutants, particularly those enriched with black carbon or soot particles from nearby urban areas and the Indo-Gangetic Plain region, are worsening the air quality in the Sundarbans. These pollutants significantly impact the ecology and biogeochemistry of the mangrove ecosystem, posing a substantial threat to its health and stability.
  • Climate change has led to rising sea levels, which threaten to inundate low-lying mangrove areas. Saltwater intrusion from these rising waters disrupts the delicate balance of the mangrove ecosystem, making it more vulnerable to storm surges during cyclones.
  • Mangroves provide essential services such as shoreline protection and nursery grounds for fish. Deforestation disrupts these services, affecting coastal communities and fisheries.
  • The conversion of mangrove forests for agricultural purposes, such as cash crops (e.g., palm oil) or food production (e.g., rice paddies), destroys vital habitats. This not only reduces the area available for these ecosystems but also fragments existing ones, negatively impacting biodiversity.
  • The loss of mangrove habitats due to climate change leads to a decline in species that are near-threatened or endangered. Previously safe havens for diverse molluscs and crustaceans are disappearing due to polluted discharges and breeding activities in these areas.


The Sundarbans mangrove ecosystem faces a multifaceted threat from climate change, deforestation, and increasing air pollution. Efforts to protect and preserve this unique and vital region must address these challenges comprehensively, ensuring the survival of its rich biodiversity and the essential services it provides to local communities and the broader environment.