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Environment & Disaster Response

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest and a designated world heritage site. Shared by Bangladesh and India, it is home to some of the world’s most endangered species. Millions of people depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihood by catching fish, crabs, cutting wood, farming and collecting precious honey. This unique ecosystem is under threat due to the rise in global temperature and population pressure resulting in high vulnerability to floods, embankment erosion, and frequent devastating cyclones. Furthermore, due to high poverty incidence, the villagers are unable to recover their unbearable losses of food, livelihood and shelter in short time and extinction of endangered species and plantations. Sabuj Sangha has experience in handling this kind of disasters because the organization started its journey from this very place.

Since the beginning Sabuj Sangha started working with relief and rehabilitation with through volunteerism. Since last decades, almost in every alternative year, devastated cyclones hit the Sundarbans region and resulted in extensive damage to Sundarbans already struggling coastal communities. This is the very reason why this vulnerable communities needs humanitarian support according to their needs Sabuj Sangha acts as a catalyst to provide them food support, nutrition support etc. as per need. Sabuj Sangha further took the initiative and made a dedicated a rapid response and rehabilitation unit to provide immediate support and intervention to the vulnerable people in need.

In 2009, the devastating cyclone Aila hit the region, creating extensive damage. The crisis of water, diminishing soil fertility are few of the long lasting impacts created by the cyclone. Subsequently, since 2019, Sundarbans has faced continuous devastations from Bulbul, Fani, Amphan and Yaas cyclones. The rapid riverbank erosion disrupting their regular activities accompanied by destruction of houses has only added to their misery. Their suffering increases as they have a very poor understanding of their risks and poor early warning systems.

The severe effects of the pandemic was also felt in the slum pockets of the cities of Kolkata and Bidhannagar, especially the daily wage earners, migrant labourers, etc were affected the most. Many lost their roof and were homeless and vulnerable in no time in the period of deadly pandemic.
Response to Cyclone / Natural Calamities
With the support of various international agencies and corporate donors, Sabuj Sangha extended support to the impacted families by providing household utility, temporary shelter material, ration support, contamination preventive materials, medicinal & clinical support. In Fani Sabuj Sangha has supported to 20,000 families, i.e. 1,00,000 populations and in Bulbul, Amphan and Yaas more than 50,000 families, i.e. 2,50,000 populations.

Post the Amphan, Sabuj Sangha distributed dry ration to 1600 families in the Mathurapur – II and Patharpratima Blocks, 1735 families in East Midnapore, hygiene kits along with bleaching powder, tarpaulin and ropes were given to 600 families in the Mathurapur – II and Patharpratima Blocks, 5650 families residing in the slum areas of Kolkata and Bidhannagar areas were distributed tarpaulin and some basic cooking utensils and dry ration. Soaps, Masks & Sanitary Napkins were also distributed among the needy.
Since the areas were flooded with water, to prevent major health hazards, we organised 10 Medical Camps through which more than 1100 ailing people were able to receive free Doctors Consultation and fast treatment, free medicines were also distributed through these camps. Restoration of infrastructure was another initiative of Sabuj Sangha during this period. The 2500 sq. ft. Children’s home and the School was rebuilt in the Mathurapur – II area, 2 tube wells were installed in the Huge Impacted Regions to provide safe and potable water resource for over 1000 families.

Rescue and Resilience delivery (sheltering) for Amphan was still difficult with social distancing. Nothing could be done there for multiple hazards. Houses were broken and de-roofed, river embankments breached and water had gushed into the villages, vast areas infiltrated with saline water swamping low lands and dipping safe water tube-wells and many more, roads became disconnected due to the felling of trees, electricity went off for many days, livelihoods of the marginalised people paused with Harvest Spoilt, Pond Water Polluted with large loss of Fishes cultivated, damage in fishing materials including Nets, Boats and many others.

Immediate restoration was started and no stone was left unturned to reach out to the people living in those areas by the team. 30 highly affected villages were identified across three most hugely impacted blocks of South 24 Parganas district – Sagar, Patharpratima and Mathurapur II for relief, restoration and rehabilitation support. Immediate Actions were taken up like Post-Disaster Need Assessment (PDNA) with Drone, Social Mapping and Survey for Identification of Beneficiaries based on parameters of vulnerability.

To restore income of these poorly affected families, cash for work activities were started such as repair of road upto a stretch of 1.5 km for restoring connectivity in Nandakumarpur involving 150 beneficiaries for 10 days, i.e. 1500 Man-days.

Skill development trainings and raw materials were distributed with the aim of ensuring Food Security with Livelihood Restoration on Pond Based Integrated Farming for 200 Farmers, Agriculture Support for various cultivations for 290 Farmers, Support for Betel vine farming for 10 Farmers and Poultry farming for 100 beneficiary families.

Several workshops and trainings were imparted to the community people on Psycho-social crisis as well as on Rights & Entitlements of the various Social Security and Schemes related to Agriculture.  More than 900 families could be successfully linked in one or more than one of the various schemes. As per our records, 37 families were linked to  Pradhan Mantri Jivan Jyoti Yojana (PMJJY),  161 families to Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBJY) – 161 families, 11 families in the  Atal Pension Yojana (APY)  and 801 people were linked under the under the Health Scheme.
Response to COVID-19
Emergency Relief Response:

For Covid impact, Dry Ration support was given to 350 low income families in the tribal areas of the Kumargram and Madarihat Blocks in the Alipurduar district of North Bengal, 1120 families including 370 children received dry ration in the Canning I and Baruipur Blocks in the South 24 Pgs district, another 1000 families were supported with dry ration and  cash support worth Rs. 5000/- was given to 235 migrant families in the South 24 Pgs, 2537 families were provided dry ration across the state of West Bengal and 500 families residing in the Mathurapur – II Block of South 24 Pgs also received dry ration support through our organisation.
Emergency COVID Medical Response:

The second wave of COVID-19 has affected the population in of the Sundarbans Delta, West Bengal State, India, which even in normal circumstances has poor access to health services due to its remoteness and poor land connectivity. During May 2021, the second wave was stagnated, but hospitalizations and deaths remain high. The West Bengal State Government has committed itself to increasing COVID-19 hospital bed capacities, but these are not within reach of the affected population of this designated intervention. The closest hospital with the necessary equipment is 60km away. Moreover, the knowledge on COVID-19 best practices, general lax attitude towards lockdown measures, as well as access to vaccination and testing was also limited within rural communities, where the consequences of infection may be much more severe.

In this situation Sabuj Sangha tried to increase the resilience of the communities in hard-to-reach locations in West Bengal State through access to safe behavioural guidelines and appropriate health services.
  • A COVID-19 care centre was established with required testing and diagnosis facilities at Sundarbans Delta.
  • Supported with medical equipment to 15 block hospitals of Diamond Harbour Health District in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal.
  • Total 2268 patients visited the Out-Patient Department during the period Aug’21- March’22, out of which 329 were suspected COVID positive 83 were found COVID positive after RAT testing out of which 45 were found COVID positive after RTPCR testing. They were admitted to the hospital and essential services were provided through the health center.
  • 400 RAT test were done through outreach camp
  • 6,022 people (4,376 adults & 1,646 adolescents) were sensitized through 474 community level meetings on COVID appropriate behavior, hand hygiene behavior, the importance of COVID vaccination, and available services for COVID treatment.
  • 2744 (Male-792 & Female 1952) people ware sensitized through 118 community level meeting on vaccination
  • 20875 (8336 Adolescents & 12539 Adult) people reached through 1948 community awareness session till 20th march 2022
  • 14827(2194 V1 & 12633 V2) people were vaccinated during January to March, 2022 through our mobilization by 112 Community Resource Person, 14 Community Health worker and ten GP Coordinator.
Rejuvenation and Conservation of Mangrove Vegetation in Sunderban:

The aftermath post the Amphan cyclone had been largely devastating. It was strongly felt that the mangroves of the Sunderbans which have been the natural barriers to withstand the climatic disasters need to be rejuvenated and planted.  They would help in protecting the river embankments and address the problems of flooding due to cyclones inside the villages. Hence, to realise this aim, extinct varieties of mangroves were planted along the road. The community people were engaged to plant varieties no. of saplings. Some rare species of plants were also planted with assurance of maintenance by the local people in the community. This not only encouraged afforestation and protection of our environment but also instilled the interest the beautification among the local villagers thereby creating ownership among them.