Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Hungry Tide

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The Hungry Tide

A Novel

by Amitav Ghosh

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2006, 352 pages

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The estuarine delta of the Sundarbans is a harsh area prone to natural disasters, such as the cyclone in 1970 which killed 300,000 people. During 'normal' cyclones the mangrove swamps absorb much of the first shock which is why the people of the area do not build close to the sea.

Despite this a business group have ambitious plans to build an enormous tourism complex in the region, with everything from 'virgin beaches' to shopping centers, restaurants and mini-golf courses.

As Ghosh, and many others, point out, this would not only be an ecological disaster for the area but also a likely financial disaster for the group. The river system carries 8 times as much silt as the Amazon so there are no pristine beaches to be had, the waters are heaving with estuarine sharks and crocodiles, the undercurrents are hazardous, and bacteria and parasites flourish in the water, making it a distinctly unsuitable place for swimming. Add to that the fact that the floating hotels would be a sitting target for cyclones and tidal waves, and that the destruction of the mangrove forests would increase the danger to the local population, and you have a recipe for disaster! More about this.

This article was originally published in May 2005, and has been updated for the June 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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