The Sundarbans, literally ‘beautiful forest’ in Bengali, is an immense archipelago situated between the vast Indian Ocean to the south and the fertile plains of Bengal to the north.1 Created by the confl uence of the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers and their innumerable distributaries, the Sundarbans constitutes the southern end of both Bangladesh and West Bengal (WB). The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta stretches several hundred miles, from the shorelines of Orissa in the west to those of Chittagong and Burma in the east; it is the largest delta in the world. It is animated by two opposing fl ows of water: fresh water coursing all the way down from the Himalayas towards the Bay of Bengal and salt water streaming up with the tide from the Indian Ocean into the Bengali hinterland. These fast-moving salty muddy waters are the locale of crocodiles, sharks and snakes of the most dangerous variety and of thousands of mangrove-covered islands. Born of these current-driven waters, the islands seem to cling on to their vegetation for their very existence. Muddy sandbars, washed up into existence one moment, are immediately eaten away if left bare of mangrove vegetation. Thus the rivers, along with their allies, the tides and storms, continually redesign island topographies, destroying some parts, adding to others, sometimes reclaiming them completely only to reassemble them a few kilometres away. These forested islands, the littoral fringe of the Bay of Bengal, cover around 10,000 sq. km.