Sundarban Revealed: A Spatial Appreciation
There is a forest at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal. It is a forest like no other and spread over a vast area where two of South Asia greatest rivers meet the sea after their long journey from the high Himalaya. The Sunderban is this vast, 10,000 square mangrove forest and it’s a place that in the 21st Century still embodies wilderness in its rawest, most beautiful and sometimes terrifying form. Political boundaries separate it between Bangladesh and India but once inside the maze of mangrove trees there are few signs of any human presence. The area hosts impressive plant and animal diversity and is well as one of the most secure locations for wild tigers to breed in.
For the last 40 years NASA satellite shave been imaging the Sunderban and the results have produced some of the most enigmatic images of the earth’s surface. With the Landsat data achieve now available for public use I have been exploring recent imagery from the Landsat 8 satellite. The data that I processed and displayed in the above image is very fresh- it was collected in late January and early February this year by Landsat 8. It’s given me a chance to virtually revisit a forest that was once a favorite place to go to for birding and photography expeditions.
Denzau, Gertrud et. al. Living with Tides and Tigers – The Sundarbans Mangrove Forest. Dhaka, 2009. Print. See Web link for book. This book is produced by the most authoritative people on the Bangladesh Sunderban. This include Rubaiyat and Elizabeth Mansur and their colleagues Dr. Gertrud Neumann-Denzau and Dr. Helmut Denzau. I had the privilege of interacting with them all on several memorable trips into the Sundarban.
Chakravortty, Somdatta. “Analysis of end member detection and subpixel classification algorithms on hyperspectral imagery for tropical mangrove species discrimination in the Sunderbans Delta, India.” Journal of Applied Remote Sensing. 7(1), August, 2013. Web.
Chowdhury, Biswajit Roy. The Sunderbans: A Photographic Field Guide. New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2007. Biswajit is a good friend who published my early work on Nilgiri tahr in Environ magazine. He is involved in wildlife conservation matters from his base in Kolkata.
Kolkata Birds Lead by the energetic Sumit Sen there are excellent trip reports, images and resources on major birding sites in West Bengal and the North Eastern States.
Lockwood, Ian. “Bangladesh’s Declining Forest Habitat.” Sanctuary Asia. June 1998. Web. I wrote and photographed this with the idea of providing an overview of Bangladesh’s forest areas. The Sunderban features prominently in it.
Montgomery, Sy. Spell of the Tiger: Maneaters of the Sunderbans. New York: Houghton Mifflin 1995. Print.
NASA Earth Observatory. Sundarbans, Bangladesh. 15 October 2006. Web.
Sirajul Hussain Photography. (Facebook link) Siraj is an old friend who I exhibited with in Dhaka many years ago. He has some of the finest pictures of the Sunderban area.
The Guide Ltd. The best way to visit the Bangladesh Sunderban is with the family-run Guide Tours travel agency. Hasan Mansur and his family have been helping people to experience the Sunderban intimately for 20 or so years. I owe all of my best experiences there to them.
Note on etymology of Sundarban: there is some variation on the ways that Sunderban is spelt base on the source. The name can either be literally translated from Bengali as the “beautiful forest” or as a distinct name based on the dominant Sundari (Heritiera fomes) tree.
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