Sundarbans National Park

Sundarbans National Park

Infobox Indian Jurisdiction
type = national park
native_name = Sundarbans National Park
other_name = সুন্দরবন জাতীয় উদ্যান
iucn_category = Ia
state_name = West Bengal
district= South 24 Parganas
|nearest_city = Gosaba
latd=21 |latm=56 |lats=42 |longd=88 |longm=53 |longs=45
skyline = Sundarban mangrove.jpg‎
skyline_caption = Mangrove trees in Sundarbans
precip= 1920
temp_summer= 34
temp_winter= 20
|established_title = Established
established_date = 1984
blank_title_1 = Visitation
blank_value_1 = NA (2005-06)
blank_title_2 = Governing body
blank_value_2 = Government of India, Government of West Bengal
inset_map_marker = yes

The Sundarbans National Park (Bengali: সুন্দরবন জাতীয় উদ্যান "Shundorbôn Jatio Uddan") is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve located in the Sundarbans delta in Indian state of West Bengal. This region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves of the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.


"Sundarban" literally means "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest" in the Bengali language. The name Sundarbans may also have been derived from the "Sundari" trees that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers. Other possible explanations can be a derivation from "Samudra Ban" (Sea Forest) or "Chandra-bandhe" (name of a primitive tribe). But the generally accepted view is the one associated with "Sundari" trees.Citation | last = Pasha | first = Mostafa Kamal | last2 = Siddiqui | first2 = Neaz Ahmad | contribution = Sundarbans | editor-last = Islam | editor-first = Sirajul | editor-link = Sirajul Islam | title = Banglapedia: national encyclopedia of Bangladesh | publisher = Asiatic Society of Bangladesh | place = Dhaka | isbn = 9843205766 | publication-date = 2003 | contribution-url =]


The history of the area can be traced back to 200-300 AD. A ruin of city built by Chand Sadagar has been found in the Baghmara Forest Block. During the Mughal Empire, Raja Basand Rai and his nephew took refuge in the Sundarbans from the advancing armies of Emperor Akbar. Many of the buildings which were built by them later fell to hands of Portuguese pirates, salt smugglers and dacoits in the 17th century. Evidence of the fact can be traced from the ruins at Netidhopani and other places scattered all over Sundarbans.

During the Mughal period (1203-1538), the local kings leased the forests of the Sundarbans out. The history of changes in legal status boasts a number of unique features including the distinction of being the first mangrove forest in the world to be brought under scientific management. The area was mapped by the Surveyor General as early as 1764 following soon after proprietary rights were obtained from the Mughal Emperor, Alamgir II, by the East India Company in 1757. Systematic management of this forest tract started in the 1860s after the establishment of a Forest Department in the Province of Bengal, in India.

The first Forest Management Division to have jurisdiction over the Sundarbans was established in 1869. The Sundarbans was declared a reserved forest in 1875-76, under the Forest Act, 1865 (Act VIII of 1865). The first management plan was written for the period 1893-98.Hussain, Z. and G. Acharya, 1994. (Eds.) Mangroves of the Sundarbans. Volume two : Bangladesh. IUCN, Bangkok, Thailand. 257 p.] [UNDP, 1998. Integrated resource development of the Sundarbans Reserved Forests, Bangladesh. Volume I Project BGD/84/056, United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Dhaka, The People’s Republic of Bangladesh. 323 p.] In 1875 a large portion of the mangrove forests was declared as reserved forests under the Forest Act, 1865 (Act VIII of 1865). The remaining portions of forests was declared as reserve forest the following year and the forest, which was so far was administered by the civil administration district, was placed under the control of the Forest Department. A Forest Division, which is the basic forest management and administration unit, was created in 1879 with headquarters in Khulna (now in Bangladesh).

In 1911, it was described as a tract of waste country which had never been surveyed, nor had the census been extended to it. It then stretched for about convert|165|mi|km|0 from the mouth of the Hugli to the mouth of the Meghna, and was bordered inland by the three settled districts of the Twenty-four Parganas, Khulna and Backergunje. The total area (including water) was estimated at convert|6526|sqmi|km2|0.

The present Sundarbans National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1977. On 4 May 1984 it was declared a National Park. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987. [] Whole Sundarbans area was declared as Biosphere Reserve in 1989.


Sundarbans National Park is located in between 30° 24' - 30° 28' N longitude and between 77° 40' - 77° 44' E latitude in the South 24 Parganas district in the Indian state of West Bengal. The average altitude of the park is 7.5 m above sea level. The park is made up of 54 small islands and it crisscrossed by several distributaries of Ganga.

Sundarbans National Park is the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world. Twenty-six of the fifty broad mangrove types found in the world grow well in the Sundarbans. The commonly identifiable vegetation that grow in the dense mangrove forests at the Sundarbans are salt water mixed forest, mangrove scrub, brackish water mixed forest, littoral forest, wet forest and wet alluvial grass forests.

Rivers in the Sundarbans are meeting places of salt water and freshwater. Thus, it is a region of transition between the freshwater of the rivers originating from the Ganges and the saline water of the Bay of Bengal (Wahid "et al.". 2002).

The Sundarbans along the Bay of Bengal has evolved over the millennia through natural deposition of upstream sediments accompanied by intertidal segregation. The physiography is dominated by deltaic formations that include innumerable drainage lines associated with surface and subaqueous levees, splays and tidal flats. There are also marginal marshes above mean tide level, tidal sandbars and islands with their networks of tidal channels, subaqueous distal bars and proto-delta clays and silt sediments. The Sundarbans' floor varies from 0.9 m to 2.11 m above sea level. [Katebi, M.N.A. and M.G. Habib, 1987. Sundarbans and Forestry in Coastal Area Resource Development and Management Part II, BRAC Printers, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 107 p.]

Biotic factors here play a significant role in physical coastal evolution and for wildlife a variety of habitats have developed including beaches, estuaries, permanent and semi-permanent swamps, tidal flats, tidal creeks, coastal dunes, back dunes and levees. The mangrove vegetation itself assists in the formation of new landmass and the intertidal vegetation plays an important role in swamp morphology. The activities of mangrove fauna in the intertidal mudflats develop micromorphological features that trap and hold sediments to create a substratum for mangrove seeds. The morphology and evolution of the eolian dunes controlled by an abundance of xerophytic and halophytic plants. Creepers and grasses and sedges stabilizes sand dunes and uncompacted sediments.


The average maximum and minimum temperature is 34 °C and 20 °C respectively. Rainfall is heavy with high humidity as high as 80% as it is close to the Bay of Bengal. The monsoon lasts from mid-June to mid-September. Prevailing wind is from the north and north-east from October to mid-March and south west westerlies prevails from mid-March to September. Storms which sometimes develop into cyclones are common during the month of May and October.


The Directorate of Forest of the Government of West Bengal is responsible for the administration and management of Sundarbans, which is headquartered at Canning. The principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife & Bio-Diversity & ex-officio Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal is the senior most executive officer looking over the administration of the park. The Chief Conservator of Forests (South) & Director, Sundarban Biosphere Reserve is the administrative head of the park at the local level. He is assisted by a Deputy Field Director and an Assistant Field Director. The park area is divided into two ranges, overseen by range forest officers. Each range is further sub-divided into beats.

The park also has some floating watch stations and camps to protect the property from poachers.The park receives financial aid from the State Government as well as the Ministry of Environment and Forests of Government of India under various Plan and Non-Plan Budgets. Additional funding is received under the Project Tiger from the Central Government. In 2001, a grant of US$ 20,000 was received as a preparatory assistance for promotion between India and Bangladesh from the World Heritage Fund.

Flora and fauna


There are 64 plant species in Sundarbans and they have the capacity to withstand estuarine conditions and saline inundation on account of tidal effects. In the month of April and May the flaming red leaves of the Genwa the crab-like red flowers of the Kankara and the yellow flowers of Khalsi can be seen, which add a beauty to the surroundings. Some of the more commonly found plants and trees in the park are Genwa, Dhundal, Passur, Garjan, Kankra, Sundari and Goran.


The Sundarbans forest is home to more than 200 tigers. The Royal Bengal Tigers have developed a unique characteristic of swimming in the saline waters, and are world famous for their man-eating tendencies.

Apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger; Fishing Cats, Macaques, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Fox, Jungle Cat, Flying Fox, Pangolin, Chital, are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans.

Census results


Some of the more popular birds found in this region are - Open Billed Storks, White Ibis, Water Hens, Coots, Pheasant Tailed Jacanas, Pariah Kites, Brahminy Kite, Marsh Harriers, Swamp Partridges, Red Jungle Fowls, Spotted Doves, Common Mynahs, Jungle Crows, Jungle Babblers, Cotton Teals, Herring Gulls, Caspian Terns, Gray Herons, Brahminy Ducks, Spotted Billed Pelicans, Large Egrets, Night Herons, Common Snipes, Wood Sandpipers, Green Pigeons, Rose Ringed Parakeets, Paradise Flycatchers, Cormorants, Fishing Eagles, White Bellied Sea Eagles, Seagulls, Common Kingfishers, Peregrine falcons, Woodpeckers, Whimprels, Black-Tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Eastern Knots, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Pintails, White Eyed Pochards and Whistling Teals.

Aqua fauna

Some of the fish and amphibians found in the park are Sawfish, Butter Fish, Electric rays, Silver carp, Star Fish, Common Carp, King Crabs, Prawn, Shrimps, Gangetic Dolphins, Skipping Frogs, Common Toads and Tree Frogs.


The Sundarbans National Park houses an excellent number of reptiles as well. Some of the common ones are - Olive Ridley turtles, sea snakes, Dog Faced Water Snakes, Green Turtles, Estuarine Crocodiles, Chameleons, King Cobras, Salvator Lizards, Hard Shelled Batgun Terrapins, Russels Vipers, Mouse Ghekos, Monitor Lizards, Curviers, Hawks Bill Turtles, Pythons, Common Kraits, Chequered Killbacks and rat Snakes.

Endangered species

The endangered species that lives within the Sundarbans are Royal Bengal Tiger, Estuarian Crocodile, River Terrapin (Batagur baska), Olive Ridley Turtle, Gangetic Dolphin, Ground Turtle, Hawks Bill Turtle and King Crabs (Horse shoe).

Management and special projects

The park has got protection since its creation. The core area is free from all human disturbances like collection of wood, honey, fishing and other forest produces. However in buffer area fishing, honey collection and wood cutting are permitted in limited form. Protection of the park from poaching and theft of forest products is done by well armed forest staffs who patrols in motorboats and launches. Moreover forest offices and camps are located at several important parts of the park. Anti-poaching camps are manned by 2 to 3 knowledgeable labourers under supervision of concerned beat guard/Forester/Range officer.

Habitat of wildlife is well maintained through eco-conservation, eco-development, training, education and research. 10 Forest Protection Committees and 14 Eco-development Committees have been formed in the fringe of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve helps in this regard. Seminars, workshops, awareness camps, etc. are organised frequently in the vicinity of park to educate the people on eco-conservation, eco-development and such other issues. Mangrove and other plants are planted in the fringe area to meet the local need of fuel wood for about 1000 villages and to conserve the buffer area. Conservation of soil is done to maintain the ecological balance. Several sweet water ponds have been dug up inside the park to provide drinking water to the wild animals. Controlling man-eating tigers is another major activity. The number of causalities has been reduced from 40 to 10 per year. The reduction in number of causalities is a result of strict control over the movement of the people inside the tiger reserve, alternative income generation and awareness building among people. It is also believed that due to use of human masks and electric human dummies. Straying of tigers into nearby villages is prevented through effective measures like nylon net fencing, solar illumination of villages, etc. The youths of the villages are given training in controlling the straying of tigers into the villages.

The Mangrove Interpretation Centre is established at Sajnekhali to make the local people and tourists aware about importance of conservation of nature in general and specially the mangrove eco-systems.


Though there is tough protection in the park there are a few loopholes. The geographical topography with hostile terrain criss-crossed by several rivers and their tributaries, long international border with Bangladesh, fishing trawlers and launches helps in poaching, cutting of wood and also affecting the mangrove forests. Lack of staffs, infrastructure and lack of funds also added up the factors.

Park-specific information


The best and only means of travelling the park is to hire a boat and float down the various lanes formed by the many flowing rivers. You can travel in any of the local boats or in luxury launches namely M.V. "Chitrarekha" and M.V. "Madhukar", which are operated by the tourism department.

Apart from viewing the wildlife from the boat safaris, you can also visit the following places in Sundarbans which are Bhagatpur Crocodile Project which is a crocodile breeding farm (access from Namkhana), Sagar Island, Jambudweep, Sudhanyakali watchtower, Buriidabri Tiger Project, Netidhopani Watchtower, Haliday Island (famous for Barking Deer), Kanak (nesting place of Olive Ridley Turtle), Sajankhali Bird Sanctuary (famous for avian fauna).


Forest lodge and forest rest-houses are available for accommodation at Sajnekhali, Bakkhali and Piyali. The cruise launches MV Chitralekha and MV Sarbajaya also have lodging facility.

Lodging facilities are also available at Sundarbans Jungle Camp on Bali Island run by Help Tourism Group with collaboration with local communities and members of Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society.


*Nearest airport: Dum Dum airport at Kolkata is 112 km away.
*Nearest railhead: Canning is 48 km away from the Park.
*Nearest Road: Road transportation is available from Kolkata for Namkhana (105 km), Sonakhali (100 km), Raidighi (76 km), Canning (64 km), and Najat (92 km), which are all near the Sunderbans and have access to the riverine waterways.
*Nearest town: Gosaba is 50 km away.
*Nearest city: Kolkata which is 112 km away.

General tips

The ideal time to visit the park is November to February when the tigers can be seen on the river banks having sunbath.

Entry Permits : The foreign tourists who wants to visit the tiger projects and visit the Sajnekhali, have to obtain the special permits for entry into the Sundarbans National Park. The tourists should contact the Secretary, West Bengal Forest Department, Writer's Building, Kolkata - 700001. To obtain the entry permit for other areas of the Sundarban; the tourists must visit the Field Director, Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, PO Canning, District 24 Parganas, West Bengal. However a boat cruise through Sunderbans outside the sanctuary requires no entry permit.

In popular culture

The Sundarbans has been celebrated in numerous Bengali and Indian English novels, songs, and film.

The Bengali folk epic Manasamangal mentions "Netidhopani" and has some passages set in the Sunderbans during the heroine Behula's quest to bring her husband "Lakhindar" back to life. "Sundarbaney Arjan Sardar", a novel by Shibshankar Mitra, and Padma Nadir Majhi, a novel by Manik Bandopadhyay, are based on the rigors of lives of villagers and fishermen in the Sunderbans region, and are woven into the Bengali psyche to an extent. Part of the plot of Salman Rushdee's Booker Prize winning novel, "Midnight's Children" is also set in the Sundarbans. Most of the plot of prize-winning anthropologist Amitav Ghosh's 2004 novel, "The Hungry Tide", is set in the Sundarbans.

The Sunderbans has been the subject of numerous non-fiction books, including the "The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans" by Sy Montegomery for a young audience, which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award.

"Padma Nadir Majhi" was also made into a movie by Goutam Ghose. Numerous documentary movies have been made about the Sunderbans, including the 2003 IMAX production about the Bengal Tiger - Shining Bright. The acclaimed BBC TV series Ganges documents the lives of villagers, especially honey collectors, in the Sundarbans.

The Sunderbans are celebrated through numerous Bengali folk songs and dances, often centered around the folk heroes, gods and goddesses specific to the Sunderbans (like Bonbibi and Dakshin Rai) and to the Lower Gangetic Delta (like Manasa and Chand Sadagar).


External Links

* A [ Fact sheet about the Sundarbans] from the [ World Conservation Monitoring Centre] .
* [ Official UNESCO website entry]
* [ Project Tiger Reserves in India – Sundarbans]
* [ Sundarbans National Park]
* [ Indian Wildlife Tours Sundarbans National Park]
* [ Sundarbans National Park]
* [ Web123India: Sundarbans]

ee also

* Project Tiger

External links

* [ Sahara Sundarbans – The Ultimate Destination]
* [ Kolkata Birds]
* [ UNESCO Periodic Report]

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