This vanishing forest protects the coasts—and lives—of two countries

Rising waters and illicit logging are killing the trees in the Sundarbans, the natural wall that protects the India-Bangladesh coast.

Tidal surges now isolate parts of Sagar Island, south of Ghoramara in the Hugli River.

It was when the body of a long-dead friend surfaced near her front door that Bulu Haldar knew her house was as good as gone.

For weeks, the embankment shielding East Dhangmari, in the Khulna district of southwestern Bangladesh, had been threatening to sink into the Pusur River. First, a ferocious storm had ripped into the outer layer of concrete. Then, at the end of 2017, the river had begun eating into the porous earthen wall itself. Locals rushed in sandbags, but that bought only a few days’ respite. When the river finally surged into the cemetery across from Haldar’s garden, disinterring skeletons and contaminating the village’s drinking pools, it filled her one-room hut waist-deep in muddy brown water.

“There was nothing else I could do to protect my house,” she said. “We were powerless, like children.”

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