Ebb and Flow

Life goes on for Mousuni islanders in the sinking Sundarbans

Roots of a tree exposed after being submerged in flooded land for a prolonged period, resulting in ground soil erosion.
Roots of a tree exposed after being submerged in flooded land for a prolonged period, resulting in ground soil erosion.
PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY Swastik Pal
30 April, 2023

A narrow wooden jetty held itself above the water, partially submerged at the end. Neatly dotting the makeshift landing stage were people waiting for the wooden country boat to dock. This is the only means of commute for the Mousuni islanders to the mainland. The coastal embankments had breached and every nook was flooded. This was among the first photographs I took when I reached the tiny island near Namkhana in West Bengal, situated in theĀ Ganges Delta, on a wooden trawler boat myself, during the onset of the rainy season in 2018. Little did I know that the monsoon would be one of the fiercest of the last decade, and never did I imagine that my life too would become intertwined with this ebb and flow of floods. I returned to the Sundarbans twice every month between 2018 and 2019, sometimes losing my way only to find a completely new landscape.

The wooden pier at the Bagdanga ghat that connects Mousuni Island to the nearest village, Namkhana, in West Bengal.
Mousuni Island is one of the frontier islands at the edge of Bay of Bengal and is prone to ecological disasters, often owing to rising sea levels.