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Sundarban Forest is a vast and remote land mass, criss-crossed with hundreds of rivers, creeks and tidal channels. The civilization and human habitation comes to a halt along the northern and north-western fringe of the mangrove forest. Road network also ends at these natural boundaries, and further entry into the tiger land is only with water crafts. The difficulties can be well appreciated if we look into the past systems of Mangrove management. The First Working Plan of 24 Parganas forest Division, spread over the undivided Bengal , was written by Mr. Curtis between 1924 and 1929. According to this first most-elaborately written Working Plan, Mr. Curtis had incurred an expenditure of Rs 2,12,000/- approx. for carrying out the detailed survey to demarcate Forest Block and Compartment boundaries, and preparation of Forest Stock Maps depicting the status, extent, quality of Forest vegetation and species composition etc. The tremendous job, carried out almost 75 years ago, is all the more important because of the fact that the similar field exercise could not be repeated later.

A full fledged GIS Cell has been opened in the Office of Director, Sundarban Biosphere Reserve. The GIS Cell has one license each of ARC/INFO, ARCVIEW 8.1 and TNT Mips GIS Software, and ERDAS and EASIPACE Image Processing Software. Satellite Data (Scene) for the Districts of 24 Parganas(South) & (North), Nadia and Murshidabad have been procured from NRSA, Hyderabad for the period 1981, 1986, 1989, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005. High resolution IKONOS satellite data have also been procured during 2003, for parts of Sundarban Reserved Forest , for more critical analysis of the Mangrove Forest . The latest IRS-P6 satellite data for March 2004 have been procured for mapping the land-uses of Sundarban and the entire State, as in March 2004. The data base has already been analysed and published.


Time-series analysis of the Mangrove vegetation and Hydrological features has been carried out with the data available for more than two decades, and based on the information generated, the following management inputs could be provided:

i) The boundaries of Forest Blocks and Compartments have been realigned, coinciding with the changed river/creek courses, and areas have been recalculated. These revise Block/Compartment maps form the basis of Revised Management Plan of Sundarban Tiger Reserve.
ii) Forest Stock Maps are being generated, on Real-time basis, using Satellite imageries and the saline blanks, open mangroves and dense mangrove areas have been mapped. This data have been used to plan forest working in Sundarbans.
iii) Mangrove vegetation change detection studies show that the quality of Forest has improved appreciably over the last few years after stoppage of forest harvesting. Species diversity had gone down in areas of coupe working.
iv) The saline blanks within the Mangrove eco-system form a dynamic system, as more salt-tolerant species like Ceriops decandra ( Jhanti Goran) gradually colonize the saline blanks.
v) Information collected during extensive Ground Truth Verification showed that the open mangrove patches abound more in deer and wild boar population, and thus provides a good niche for the tigers.
vi) About 220 sq km of land area has been eroded away in Sundarban Tiger Reserve only, over a period of 70 years till year 2000. Southern parts of Jambudwip, Mayadwip 4 and 5 compartments and south-eastern part of Goasaba Block are suffering progressive erosion. While accretion/new formation of Char land are taking place at South Sagar Sand, lower long Sand islands in Muriganga estuary, in Muriganga, Saptamukhi and Thakuran rivers within the boundary of Reserved Forest. Presently, all such new and progressive accretions are being mapped and available blank areas calculated, using GIS, for taking up afforestation in future.
vii) Time series analysis of Forest Cover of Jambudwip Reserved Forest island, over last two decades, have provided strongest basis for removal of encroachment and stoppage of degradation of Mangrove forest. During the year 2002, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forest , Science & Technology, and the Central Empowered Committee of Supreme Court of India have appreciated the use of this modern technology in conservation of our natural resource.
viii) Maps of 24 Parganas (S) forest and Sundarban Tiger Reserve, generated using RS/GIS have been circulated at Beat level, Range level and Division level which have helped the field level staff appreciate the extent and quality of their territorial jurisdictions more comprehensively, and are helping in the planning processes for afforestation.
ix) Time series analysis of satellite data is also being used to monitor the success and extent of afforestation programme in remote locations of Sundarban, where normal methods of monitoring are almost impossible due to tidal actions and inaccessibility. One such example is the monitoring of afforestation in gradually emerging Thakuran char.
x) Finally, the use of RS/GIS is found extremely useful as a Monitoring/ Control mechanism available with the Senior Management level.

Monitoring encroachment/forest cover changes at Jambudwip with satellite imagery

MAY 1986
DEC 1989
MAY 1998
FEB 2003



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