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Vivid and invaluable account of the ecology and culture of the lower Ganges Delta. It is surprising how little literature there is on the this area.
From the publisher's announcement:
This book deals with the ecology and culture of the lower Ganges delta, where 150 million people live. A land traversed by thousands of miles of rivers and canals in west Bengal and Bangladesh, there is hardly any place on earth where so much poverty is concentrated and where nature can be so demanding. It is a place where rivers change course and devour whole villages and croplands, where floods submerge millions of acres, where devastating cyclones create mayhem on a grand scale, and where, with global warming, conditions can only get worse. Thomas describes how irrigation and flood control have degraded the natural environment; how commercial shrimp production has destroyed wetlands and livelihoods; how landless peasants have settled on shifting islands of sediment that can be washed away in hours; how swelling populations have pushed ever deeper into mangrove forests; how peasants contend with landlords whose callousness is truly unbelievable. But the overall picture is not entirely bleak. Bengalis are extraordinarily resilient and ingenious in adapting to the environment. They love their land and its broad rivers, its culture and its age-old traditions. Historical materials and vivid accounts of early travelers are brought up-to-date by the author's observations and contemporary reports that reveal the futility of many of the efforts to manage river systems and wetlands. Traveling by bus, boat, and rickshaw, the author's impressions and anecdotes add an immediacy and human dimension which, accompanied by his striking photographs, complete the picture of a fascinating part of the world that is rarely seen by western tourists.