words and Photographs by Swastik pal
Deep in the Sundarbans, life is governed by the flow and ebb of the tides. The river delta region that spans across India and Bangladesh is famous for its vast mangrove forests that are threatened by rising sea levels and increasing temperatures. For the past seven years, photographer Swastik Pal has been captivated by the people who call this fragile ecosystem home. His ongoing project Tide Country documents this changing landscape and its impact on their way of life.
Life in the Sundarbans is intertwined with the rivers, the creeks, the flood and the consequent ebb. I started traveling to the Tide Country four years back, during the onset of monsoon. Little did I know that the monsoon would be one of the fiercest in the last decade, and never did I imagine that my life too would become intertwined with this cycle of flood and ebb.
Ever since then, I’ve returned to the Sundarbans, like a meandering river flowing through the narrow creeks, sometimes losing ways only to find a completely new landscape.
In this work I narrate my journey through the Tide Country, giving in to my impulses, recollecting encounters, traversing this fragile ecosystem. The landscape shifts like a sand dune from one island to another, the tide eats away the mangroves only to breathe them out during the ebb.
A constant tussle between the human existence and the sea—to stop land from being dragged away and an impending conflict between human and wildlife. Islands, once home to several thousand people, are at risk of being washed away forever, or have already been submerged.