VSSU operates exclusively within South 24 Parganas, a district in the state of West Bengal, India. South 24 Parganas is a unique district in many respects, but perhaps the most noteworthy is that it contains the Indian section of the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest and deltaic region in the world.
South 24 Parganas has a total area of 9,960 square km, 75% of which lies in the Sundarbans. 50% of South 24 Parganas has notably high forest cover, and a great deal of this is attributed to the Sundarbans. The district has a total population of around 70 million people, 40% of which reside in the Sundarbans.
South 24 Parganas is a predominantly rural district (74.4% rural), leaving only 25.6% of people living in urban or semi-urban areas. 62% of the district is low-lying, which makes it especially susceptible to natural disasters such as cyclones. South 24 Parganas also has a marked lack of irrigation facilities and particularly high salinity water because of its proximity to the Bay of Bengal. The district includes in its territory five subdivisions, 29 blocks (13 of which are in the Sundarbans), and 37 islands.
Socially and economically, South 24 Parganas is one of the least developed districts in West Bengal. More than 76% of the population is considered severely marginalized and living below the poverty line, compared with 33% of India as a whole. A large number of people, approximately 250,000, in the district work in the fisheries industry. Overall literacy in South 24 Parganas is 70%, however 79.9% of men are literate, while only 59.7% of women are literate.
VSSU works in more than 400 villages throughout South 24 Parganas, and operations are based out of 11 branch offices, as well as the head office in Ullon. The services provided by VSSU in these areas aim to combat many of the social and economic disparities that people live with, as well as add a degree of stability to everyday life.