Freshwater ponds in the Sundarbans have become salinated after tidal surges flooded most parts of the mangrove forest with seawater in the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas Dhaka Tribune

Four dead deer and three live ones were found in the Sundarbans and its vicinity in three days

Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest located in the largest delta in the world, was badly damaged by the tidal waves and strong winds of Cyclone Yaas, during its landfall in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.

Several ships, watchtowers, roundhouses in the forest, roads and foot rails were wrecked by 5-6ft high tidal surges. Meanwhile, at least four Chital deer were reported to have drowned in the tidal waters.

Moreover, freshwater ponds in the Sundarbans have become salinated after tidal surges flooded most parts of the mangrove forest with seawater.

Forest officials say flooding of freshwater ponds will create a scarcity of fresh drinking water for both people and wildlife in and around the forest. 

Forest Conservator (Khulna Zone) Moinuddin Khan said: “Forest officials were put on high alert after wild animals, including deer, were swept away in the tidal waters. Community groups have also been mobilized and asked to step up surveillance.

“Besides, a range-based committee has been formed to assess the loss of forest resources and wildlife. The Forest Department is working with the affected people on overall issues including protection of forest and wildlife resources .”

The rivers and canals adjacent to the forest have been rising ahead of cyclone Yaas’s landfall. The tidal waters damaged 19 jetties, six vessels (trawlers), two roundhouses, a foot rail, a watchtower, four staff barracks and a rest house in the eastern Sundarbans, confirmed Mohammad Belayet Hossain, divisional forest officer of the Sundarbans East Forest Department.

Azad Kabir, officer-in-charge of the Karamjal Wildlife Breeding Centre, said: “Two crocodile sheds were destroyed in the tidal water with strong winds. But no animal in the centre was harmed as they moved the animals to a safe place as soon as the water level started rising. Considering the strength of the cyclone it is highly likely that more animals may have died.”

On Thursday morning, locals rescued two live deer floating in tidal water from Kachubaria village in Mathbaria upazila of Pirojpur district. Besides, two dead deer were found in Kachikhali of Sundarbans and Baleshwar River of Sarankhola.

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, the Forest Department found two dead deer in Dublarchar of the Sundarbans and Baleshwar River of Sarankhola. Besides, another live deer was rescued from Patuakhali’s Rangabali upazila. 

Four dead deer and three live ones were found from the Sundarbans and its vicinity in two days. More wildlife is expected to die in the World Heritage Sundarbans due to the tidal wave.

Meanwhile, Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, the divisional forest officer, said: “The only source of fresh water in the Sundarbans was the ponds. Flooding of the freshwater ponds in the mangrove forest will create a scarcity of drinking water for both people and wildlife in and around the forest.”

Professor Anwarul Qadir, executive director of the Sundarbans Academy, said, “Whether the disaster is manmade or natural, the forest department should always prioritize protecting its wildlife resources in the Sundarbans.”

He added that in order to protect the wildlife resources from such natural calamities the forest department should create more safe havens on high grounds as well as more freshwater pools inside the mangrove forest.

He also added that volunteers should be mobilized and supported so that they can monitor and protect wildlife resources in every river channel before and after natural disasters.

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