It is that place in India, which is the habitat of poisonous snakes, Olive Ridley turtles, fierce estuarine crocodiles, scores of birds, and of course the most beautiful and dangerous of them all, the Royal Bengal Tiger.
It is also that part that has largely remained unspoilt by human exploitation. It is the Sunderbans, the largest delta in the world, protected by long stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest, where the mighty rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Hooghly and the Meghna (the latter in Bangladesh) meet the Bay of Bengal.
As the winter sets in, there will be a beeline of tourists wanting to visit there. A good area of Sunderbans is the Tiger Reserve, and the core area being declared as an international biosphere reserve, no economic activity other than eco-tourism is allowed there.
Even as the government is aware of the tremendous tourism potential of Sunderbans, it is caught in a bind because its priority presumably is to improve living conditions of the poor people there instead of focusing primarily on developing eco-tourism. This is what the sabhapati (president) of South 24 Parganas zilla parishad (South 24 Parganas district council) has to say (see this story in The Telegraph).
One feels here is a case of missing the wood for the tree. While creating pucca roads, hospitals, schools, etc. must surely rank at the top of to-do list, what is not understood is that active promotion of tourism can very well go hand-in-hand with development. Indeed, that is how many famous locations of eco-tourism have cropped up in different parts of the world.
The picture above is sourced from Round Table India. If you wish to see the very best of east and parts of India’s north-east, do not forget to check out Victorian Odyssey from 28th to 30th December of this year.