The trail of devastation Cyclone Amphan left would have been much higher had the forest not been there
Cyclone Amphan would have washed away the southwestern localities of Bangladesh with 10 to 15 feet high tidal surge on Wednesday.
But it was the 10,000 square-kilometer Sundarbans, nearly 32 times bigger than the Dhaka city, absorbed the force of the cyclone lessening its power to damage.
Like a fort protecting a kingdom, Sundarbans last year braced the ferocious Bulbul and shielded thousands of people on the coasts.
According to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, cyclone Amphan passed heavily on the forest, particularly in the west part in Satkhira district, with gusts of 72 to 148 kmph speed and tidal surges up to nine feet.
Forests department officials, however, could not provide with the damage assessment report on Thursday.
Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmed, former chief conservator of forest, told The Business Standard, "Indeed, the Sundarbans has protected us again. Although it cannot be said that the forests diverted the cyclone, it had reduced its damaging power."
He said that damage assessment, particularly on the wildlife, would take time unless an inside investigation is done.
"But, obviously the Sundarbans has saved the localities around the forests," he added.
On Thursday morning, the divisional forest officer Belayet Hossen said no dead wild animal was found at the forest's east division. The height of tides was calculated three feet at the eastern part of the forest.
Dr Md Anwarul Islam, former professor of Dhaka University zoology department, said the projected time of the Amphan's landfall at evening could have triggered the tidal surges.
"The trees of the forest somehow prevented the tidal surge while, fortunately, the hundreds of canals and creeks crisscrossing the Sundarbans had absorbed the shocks," said Anwarul, also the chief executive of WildTeam.
He added, "Without the forest, the people of adjourning areas would be badly affected."
According to several estimations, there are nearly 30 lakh people live in Sundarbans adjacent areas in Bangladesh part.
With tidal surge a bit high of nine feet, Amphan inundated the Sundarbans' forest-bed in Satkhira district on Wednesday night.
Forest department's Khulna Circle conservator Moyeen Uddin Khan told the Business Standard that the cyclone damaged some of their infrastructures. Tin-sheds of the forest guard posts were blown away and some jetties were totally damaged.
He said that most of the Sundarbans' fresh water ponds were found submerged with saline water after the cyclone.
"However, the cyclone did not damage much what we had speculated earlier. Because of low-height tidal surges, we expect minimal casualties to wild animals," he said.