Indian Sundarban
India’s globally renowned conservation scheme ‘Project Tiger’ was launched on 23rd December, 1973, in Sundarbans. It thus has the distinction of being one of the first nine Tiger Reserves to be declared in the country. Sundarbans Tiger Reserve (STR) is situated in the coastal districts of West Bengal, i.e. South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas (Arbesi Block only). It lies at the southern-most extremity of the lower Gangetic delta bordering the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans can be described as a maze of estuaries, river channels, and creeks encompassing a number (105) of islands of various shapes and sizes. The Tiger Reserve has an area of 2584.89 sq. km. and along with the Bangladesh Sundarbans forms the largest contiguous tract of mangrove forest anywhere in the world. It is the only mangrove forest throughout the world (besides Bangladesh) to harbour significant tiger populations. Apart from the tiger, the Sundarban Tiger Reserve also has a rich array of biodiversity values both floral and faunal.
Present Status
The Indian Sundarban has a forest area of 4,263 sq. km. of which 2,584.89 has been designated as Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR), w.e.f. 23.12.1973. Within this Tiger Reserve, 1699.62 sq. km. has been designated as the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) vide Notification No. 6028-For, dated 18.12.2007. Within this CTH, lies the Sundarban National Park having an area of 1330.12 sq. km. area notified vide No. 2867-FOR, dated 04.05.1984. The area outside the CTH is known as Buffer Zone notified vide No. 615-For/11M-28/07, dated 17.02.2009. Within the buffer area is located the Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary covering an area of 362.42 sq. km. vide Notification No. 5396-FOR, dated 24.06.1976. Rest of the area is the multiple use zone, which is used by the local population to fulfil their bona fide needs. The importance of this area was recognized by the UNESCO and the area was accorded the status of a World Heritage Site in the year 1987. (now renamed as World Heritage property).
Significance of Sundarban Mangroves
The Sundarbans mangrove eco-system is considered to be unique because of its species, richness due to its diverse mangrove flora, which constitutes the mangrove-associated flora, back mangrove species and several endemic typical mangrove associated fauna of different groups. In addition to its floral richness, the Sundarbans harbours many rare and endangered animal species apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger. These include the estuarine crocodile (Crocodilus porosus), water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), globally endangered Batagur Terrapin (Batagur baska), sea turtles, viz. Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green sea turtle (Chelonys mydus), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), fishing cats (Felis viverrina), smooth coated otters (Lutra perspicillata), the Gangetic (Platanista gangetica) & Irrawady (Orcaella brevirostris) dolphins and the rare African visitor Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath) are some of the mentionable species among 53 such rare and endangered animals. In addition to the above, there have been recorded 20 identified species of prawns and 44 species of crabs including two edible ones. The mangrove forest acts as the nursery for the finfish and shell fish and sustains the fisheries all along the eastern coast of India. It also shelters the metropolis of Kolkata from cyclonic storms and tidal surges.

The Sundarbans Tiger Reserve is bound in the east by the international boundary with Bangladesh formed by the rivers Harinbhanga, Raimangal and Kalindi. On the south lies the Bay of Bengal. The western border is formed by the river Matla, which acts a common boundary with the territorial Forest Division of South 24-Parganas. Towards the north-west, the area is bound by rivers Bidya and Gomdi. All the fringe villages lie outside the Tiger Reserve along the northern boundary.

There exist two distinct ecological units of mangrove vegetation as are given below:

1. The western portion lying west of river Thakuran where a trickle of sweet water reaches from the river Hooghly, i.e. mostly in the South 24-Parganas Forest Division.

2. The central mangrove patch, which is practically cut off from the upstream flow and is fed by backwaters of Bay of Bengal lying between rivers Harinbhanga and Thakuran .The Sundarbans Tiger Reserve falls under this area. The salinity regime is very high here. However, on the eastern side bordering Bangladesh river Kalindi receives some sweet-water flow, as result, the salinity levels are comparatively low.

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