In India’s Bengal delta, encompassing the Sundarbans mangrove forests, one in five households now has at least one family member who has migrated, a study has said.Environmental stresses indirectly disrupt livelihood security and can contribute to economic circumstances that necessitate migration.More women from the Sundarbans are picking up work in other parts of the country.Skill development can aid migrant workers to find the right opportunities. This is the second article in a three-part series based on Mongabay-India’s travel to the Indian Sundarbans. Part One is about the highly successful dairy cooperatives in the area. Part Three sheds light on an often-neglected issue: mental health among the tiger widows of Sundarbans. As dawn breaks, 26-year-old Onimal Raptan spreads his net as far as it can stretch in the sparkling blue-grey waters of the Indian Bengal delta (IBD) in south Asia. He prepares to haul prawns, but only for the upcoming winter months. When the rains begin six months later, he will move south, to Andhra Pradesh, to work as an agricultural labourer. Raptan, is a resident of Annepur village in Gosaba community block of Sundarbans, world’s largest mangrove forests, at the confluence of Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal. Precariously perched at the edge of his wooden boat, Raptan cites the devastating cyclone Aila in 2009 and the barrage of impacts in its aftermath, as his trigger to venture out and look for better income options. “Aila washed our fields with salt water that stagnated for months. It became too salty to grow anything for the next five years. We only grow paddy and potatoes which is just enough for consumption for our family of four,” Raptan told this visiting Mongabay-India correspondent. A map of the study area in the Indian Bengal Delta which includes the Indian Sundarbans and parts of North 24 Parganas and South was 24 Parganas districts. Map by DECCMA. Natural resource-based livelihoods such as agriculture and fishing predominate in the Sundarbans that is home to 4.5 million people. Due to paucity of fresh ground water resources, mono-cropping is common, which exposes them more to climate hazards such as floods and cyclones. For many migration is a way out. Men like Raptan make up the largest proportion of migrants, males aged between 21-30 years, according to a 2018 study by researchers associated with the Deltas, vulnerability & Climate Change: Migration & Adaptation (DECCMA) project. “As an agricultural labourer in Andhra, I make Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 in two months, more than three times of what I would have earned had I stayed back and worked as a daily labourer,” Raptan says with belligerence. “Our two bigha plot yields nine sacks of rice per year. There is no arrangement for irrigation to acquire sweet water. There is no political will to start irrigation,” Raptan said. Onimal Raptan returns to Sundarbans during the winter season and migrates to Andhra Pradesh for the rest of the year to work on farms. Males aged between 21-30 form the largest proportion of migrants in the Indian Bengal Delta according to the study. Photo by Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay. In India’s Sundarbans region where 54 of the 104 islands support human settlements, one in five households now has at least one family member who has migrated, said Tuhin Ghosh, a scientist at Jadavpur University’s School of Oceanographic Studies and DECCMA India, principal investigator. “Almost two thirds of migrants are moving to seek better employment opportunities, followed by family obligations while 10 percent of respondents mentioned that the migrant left to pursue a degree or obtain training in a new skill,” said Ghosh discussing the results of their four-year long study in the Bengal delta. Like Onimal Raptan, only a very small percentage of the respondents (three percent) in the Indian Bengal delta singled out environmental stresses as the direct cause of migration. But environmental stresses indirectly disrupt livelihood security and can contribute to economic circumstances that necessitate migration, pointed out Ghosh. People are shifting from a traditional farm based economy to a labour based one.