Mousuni and Ghoramara, Bengal’s last outposts in the Bay of Bengal, are finally being abandoned. Struck by four cyclones in 24 months — Fani in May 2019, Bulbul in November 2019, Amphan in May 2020 and Yaas in May 2021 — the resilience of the 23,000 residents battling the odds in these ever-shrinking islands in the Sunderbans archipelago has broken down and many are calling it quits. They have decided to leave the perilous existence behind and walk into an equally uncertain future.
“We have seen enough. Each year, some of us lose our homes as the sea relentlessly gnaws at the island. We were just about surviving till the sea surge caused by cyclone Yaas snatched everything that we possessed. We have somehow managed to save our lives. Next time, we may not even be that lucky,” said Majed Shah, a resident of Bagdanga mouja in the island who has become a climate refugee like many others and moved to a relative’s house in Frazerganj.
Shah (55) was born in Mousuni and once owned two bighas of land but the hungry tides had reduced it to a small patch. That, too, was lost in last month’s cyclone. The high tidal waves that swept away homes in the twin islands have still not receded and the saline water has destroyed the farmlands and killed livestock. Ghoramara residents Gobindo Karak and Tapas Karak, both farmers, have lost their farms where paddy and betel vines grew. The repeated wrath of cyclones and rising sea water have broken their will to fight and survive. The duo have joined the exodus with their families. “I can’t take this life of uncertainty anymore. I have moved to a cousin’s place in Kakdwip. I hope to buy a small plot of land and settle there permanently,” said Gobinda Karak who has managed to salvage four cows and six lambs. Tapas Karak has also sent his family to a relative’s house near Kakdwip and is attempting to salvage whatever he can from his home that has been damaged beyond repair.
Mousuni and Ghoramara islands are located around 120km from Kolkata at the southernmost tip of the state and are among the remotest permanently inhabited islands in the Bay of Bengal.