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In an election being fought on issues ranging from the local to the national, voters in Sundarbans are urging candidates to focus on the menace of global warming which is threatening to swallow up these islands, famous for being home to the Royal Bengal tiger. More than 40 lakh voters live on the group of 54 islands of the Sundarbans archipelago for whom climate change and its alarming impact form the main concern. The Sundarbans region has three Lok Sabha constituencies under it- Mathurapur, Jaynagar, Basirhat- all of which go to polls tomorrow in the last phase of voting. In this delta region hard hit by increasing floods, storms, salinity and erosion, there are lakhs of farmers and fishermen who want their next MPs to fight against climate change, which is responsible for eating away their land and livelihoods. People here complain that the river has widened so much over the last few decades that they lost their agricultural land and were also forced to relocate their homes. "Floods are common here. Embankments are breached regularly in many parts, flooding houses and paddy fields.
Climate change is responsible for all this as sea levels are rising. We are the first victims," says Sahadeb Guru, a farmer in Pathar Pratima block. At least four islands have already been washed away while, in the last 30 years, approximately 7,000 people have been displaced as a result of erosion, experts say. During campaigning, Lok Sabha candidates are promising they will tackle the challenge of climate change by means of adaptation and mitigation strategies.