A tale of disappearing islands and lost addresses

Ghoramara, Sundarban, February 25, 2009: Changing climate, and the basic existential challenges it is throwing up for places like Ghoramara and their people, is a frightening reality which the world, its governments and its society can no longer afford to turn away from: this was the overall impression left behind by a new film which was premiered here today. 

Mean Sea Level, a 59-minute documentary produced by the New Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), had its unique global launch on the very island on which it was shot, in the presence of the people and islanders who are its key protagonists. 

Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the governor of West Bengal, released the film at a makeshift auditorium
in the Ghoramara Island Publci School campus. Also present on the occasion were West Bengal’s minister for Sunderban affairs and CPM MLA, Kanti Ganguly and CSE director, Sunita Narain.

The film, written and directed by Pradip Saha, associate director of CSE, is a telling portrayal of the plight of islands and their residents in this region, buffeted by effects of climate change. Through its 59 minutes, the film touches on issues ranging from rising sea levels due to global warming, official policies and measures, land erosion, climate refugees and the concerns of small islands.

The island of Ghoramara, the key location for the film, is about 150 km to the south of Kolkata, in the delta region of the Bay of Bengal and Sunderban. It has close to 5,000 residents, and some basic infrastructure necessary to support them – houses, rudimentary roads, even a post office.

But it may disappear from this location very soon, much like its neighbouring island of Lohachara. Over 25 years, Ghoramara’s land mass has been eaten away by the advancing sea – from 9 sq km, it has been whittled down by almost 50 per cent to just about 4.7 sq km. Over 30 years, says the film, 7,000 residents have been forced to move out to uncertain existences – some to the nearby Sagar Island (which itself is threatened), others to metros like Kolkata.

Speaking after the release of the film, Sunita Narain said: “We must accept the fact that climate change is urgent, real and happening. Large parts of the sub-continent will be worst impacted.  We are all climate victims.”

She added: “India must take strong, proactive and a leadership role on climate change. It must ask for tougher emission cuts by rich nations. India must suggest the framework within which it can take action to ‘avoid’ emissions. India should demand a per capita entitlement framework to limit the emissions for all in the world. Equity is a pre-requisite for a global agreement on climate.”


For more information contact:

You can get in touch with Souparno Banerjee, CSE’s media coordinator, on 09910864339
e-mail: souparno@cseindia.org