Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that the West Bengal government will prepare a master plan for the development of the Sunderbans and protect the islands from the onslaught of climate change. “We will send a master plan to the Centre for the development of the Sunderbans,” she said while addressing a government program at Hingalganj in North 24 Parganas.

The Sunderbans, stretching across eastern India and Bangladesh, is the world’s largest mangrove delta comprising 102 islands on the Indian side. Around 5 million people live in 54 islands, while the rest have thick mangrove forest with around 100 tigers. The delta has to bear the brunt of cyclones, rising sea level, increasing salinity, erosion triggered by climate change and global warming.

“Earlier in June 2020, after the delta was devastated by very severe cyclone Amphan, CM Banerjee had sent a letter to the NITI Aayog requesting it to prepare a master plan by an inter-disciplinary team of experts for the Sunderbans,” said a senior government official. The chief minister, meanwhile, urged villagers to come up with homestays in village houses, and promised government assistance.

“The homestays may have facilities such as bio-toilets and televisions. We will provide funds. We have already planted 15 million mangrove saplings and special grass to fight erosion,” she said. The CM was, however, visibly peeved with district officials after winter garments, which she was supposed to distribute among villagers from the program, didn’t arrive at the venue.