Infrastructure projects alone are not enough to build resilience in communities such as in the Sundarbans, that has been devastated by cyclone Amphan.A large part of resilience building lies in softer components such as in strengthening abilities of local communities and authorities to anticipate risks, institutional capacities to absorb shocks, and learning from events and adapting accordingly.Climate services, which include the generation of climate information based on the best available science and its communication, can help build resilience in communities. The impacts of cyclone Amphan on millions of people in eastern India and Bangladesh, particularly in the ecologically fragile Sundarbans region, have reinforced the urgent need to build resilience into delta communities, a section of which has already lost their livelihoods to the COVID-19 related lockdown. Fueled by unusually warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, cyclone Amphan became one of the strongest cyclones in the recorded history of the north Indian Ocean, impacting coastal West Bengal, Odisha, and Bangladesh, scientists have said. In its aftermath, Tarun Kumar Mandal, a jatra (folk theatre) artist, who hails from Satjelia island of the Gosaba Community Development (CD) Block in the Indian Sundarbans Delta, said he feels “directionless.” Cyclone Amphan flattened the home that he built from scratch from the savings that he made through folk theatre performances. Jatra, his last resort for a living is in limbo, due to the novel coronavirus associated lockdown. After extreme hardships, Tarun Kumar Mandal, a folk-theatre artist, managed to purchase a small plot of land and build a house in 2019 in Piyali, an entry point to Sundarbans. Cyclone Amphan flattened his home. Photo from Tarun Kumar Mandal. In a written communique in Bangla, he recalls his harsh childhood, his parents’ sacrifices to get him an education, and how he was pulled into the realm of folk theatre when everything else failed. Jatra is a folk-theatre form prevalent in eastern India and Bangladesh. Jatra means journey in Bangla and the name is thought to be derived from the habit of the performers who wander from place to place to perform. “My parents eked out a living on fish and crab collection along Sundarbans estuary, often borrowing food grains for sustenance,” Tarun Kumar Mandal told Mongabay-India. He lamented that despite the pain and sacrifice his parents went through to get him a basic school education and (he topped his classes), he could not land his dream job of a primary school teacher as fund constraints prevented him from pursuing the necessary college degree. After picking up a series of odd jobs and resulting disappointments, he eventually established himself as a jatra artiste, having inherited and inspired by his father’s interest in acting and playwriting. With his plays, he managed to scrimp and save enough to purchase a small plot of land and build a house in Piyali, often referred to as the gateway to the Sundarbans, in South 24-Parganas, last year. His house is now gone. In Amphan’s aftermath, his family is in dire straits. His mother works as a domestic help in Kolkata, 75 km away from Piyali. After losing his house to Cyclone Amphan and livelihood to COVID-19 lockdown, Tarun Kumar Mandal says that he now feels “directionless”. Photo by Tarun Kumar Mandal. The Sundarbans comprise a cluster of small low-lying islands (less than five metres in height) in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna River delta. It is the largest continuous mangrove forest in the world. The 10,000 square kilometre region stretches along the coast of Bangladesh (where 60 percent of the forest lies) and India. The mangrove forests are home to the royal Bengal tiger. 54 of the 102 islands have human settlements in the Indian Sundarbans. Communities constantly live on the edge with tiger and crocodile attacks, erosion, rising sea levels (at the rate of 8mm/year) and climate change linked extreme events. Saltwater breached embankments and entered houses and fields in Rangabelia village, Gosaba block. Embankments are the only protection available to many people against the sea in the region. Photo by Sanjoy Mondal. Analyses of cyclonic events in the Bay of Bengal over a period of 120 years indicate a 26 percent rise in the frequency of high to very high-intensity cyclones over this time period. Amphan became the second supercyclonic storm over Bay of Bengal since the 1999 Odisha supercyclone. Pitching in with relief work, tour boat operator Sanjoy Mondal whose roots are in Kumirmari, Gosaba CD Block, emphasises how the communities take cyclones and other environmental challenges in their stride and have learnt to live with them. “When COVID-19 came we thought we would somehow get over it with the little that we have. But Amphan has shaken our confidence,” he said. In an interview with Mongabay-India in 2018, Gita Mandal, a fisher whose husband was a victim of a tiger attack, summed up the situation: “There are crocodiles in the river and the tiger lurks on land on the other side. Erosion attacks us from the other end.” People in Bali island temporarily rebuild embankments after Amphan left a trail of devastation. Sundarbans has about 3122 km of embankment maintained by the Irrigation & Waterways Department. Photo by Anil Mistry. While climate preparedness planning must involve all levels of government, representation from grassroots and community organisations is critical to ensure that the process meaningfully represents the interests of all citizens, stressed Avantika Goswami, sustainability, and climate professional. Currently, rebuilding efforts in the Sundarbans and in rural Bengal are being led primarily by affected residents and grassroots groups, said Goswami.