15 dramatic images of an Indian island that has slowly shrunk down to half its former size

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Ghoramara Island.
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Daesung Lee

About 90 miles south of Kolkata, India, lies an island that is slowly washing away.

Ghoramara Island, located in the Sundarbans Delta, has seen a dramatic rise in sea levels due to climate change. A recent study by oceanographer Sugata Hazra found that 30 square miles of the Sundarbans have disappeared in the past 30 years. More than 600 families have had to relocate from Ghoramara.

Photographer Daesung Lee spent two months on the island, living side by side with those who currently reside there. “The first day I arrived, there was low tide and I saw what the coast of the island looked like. [It appeared that] it was surrounded with a rock cliff, but it was actually the eroding land of island,” Lee told Business Insider.

Lee asked residents to stand on small pieces of land near the edges of the island to show the severity of the land breaking away. Below, see Lee’s haunting photos, which won him third place in the Contemporary Issues category at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2013.


Made up of 54 separate islands, the Sundarbans are one of the world’s largest collection of river delta islands. They are located off the coast of southern Bangladesh and eastern India.

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Google maps

Ghoramara Island is in the delta area of the Sundarbans, which meets the Indian Ocean.

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Daesung Lee

The warmer weather has caused glaciers to melt, which increased the sea level and made the river flow faster, causing it to slowly break down the island.

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Daesung Lee

“For this series, I simply focused on two facts — [the] disappearing island and its inhabitants,” Lee told Business Insider. “I found some symbolic landscape that explained the situation of the island and [I photographed] the inhabitants on this land to show their home is disappearing.”

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Daesung Lee

About four million people live on the Indian side of the Sundarbans.

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Daesung Lee

Source: The New York Times


The exact population of Ghoramara Island, as well as how many people have left, is unclear because there are no actual government records.

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Daesung Lee

Source: Academia.edu


But it’s believed that since 1969, Ghoramara has shrunk down to half its former size.

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Daesung Lee

Today, it barely covers three miles.

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Daesung Lee

Ghoramara used to be only two miles away from Kakdwip, located on the mainland, but now it’s five miles away.

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Daesung Lee

Source: Europe UNDP


Over the past 20 years, two other islands that were once by Ghoramara have washed away completely.

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Daesung Lee

Source: The New York Times


People who have been forced to leave the island because it is washing away are going to Sagar Island — about six miles south of Ghoramara — which has also shrunk about two miles in the past nine years.

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Daesung Lee

Source: The New York Times


Most of the people who remain on Ghoramara Island are farmers and fisherman.

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Daesung Lee

“It still has old, traditional farming culture,” Lee said.

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Daesung Lee

The mud dams the residents have built around the islands over the years are too fragile to keep away the rising sea level. They are so fragile that one storm could potentially destroy a lifetime’s labor on the land.

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Daesung Lee

Source: The New York Times


When Lee was visiting, a civil servant he met told him the island is expected to be completely washed away within 25 years.

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Daesung Lee