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Monica Tiwari

Scars of the River
India

The Sunderbans is a geologically young set of islands, still in the process of change, formation, and erosion. Increasing human habitation and consequent activities, plus thriving ports increasingly worsen the existent problems of land erosion and flooding.
Till a few decades back, most of the rivers-rivulets-channels in the Sunderbans carried sweet water to the sea; salt water entered the rivers during high tide. The resultant mixture was brackish water. But now, owing to drying up of Bhagirathi Ganga and rapid expansion of greater Kolkata eating up saline marshes in the East, the rivers in Sunderbans have little or no flow from land to sea; now the water is purely saline, and only sea water enters and leaves during tides.
A farm flooded with salt water is not usable for the next 2-3 years and several farmers, having lost their own lands start working as daily wage labourers on another’s, and often when that fails, migrate out of Bengal in search for work.
Children are usually left behind in the native village, as parents embark on journeys of uncertain destinations, with families reuniting once a year if time and money allows.
My project focusses on this distress migration, a long term consequence of climate change, with particular focus on children who are left behind in their native lands as their parents migrate, looking into the effects on their physical and mental health, education, and general well-being.

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