In Nirmal's notebook, he writes that rumors circulate about rationing, police destroying drinking water, and a cholera outbreak on Morichjhãpi. One settler snuck out and made it to Calcutta, where he spoke to the papers. This resulted in pressure to lift the siege. The next day, Nirmal and Horen head for the island. They expect to find celebrating settlers but instead, they find Kusum looking malnourished and weak. She explains that she came down with dysentery, though Fokir managed to stay well during the siege.
The settler's words to the paper clearly had the power to create actual change, which suggests again that Nirmal's private musings won't be enough to do anything of note on Morichjhãpi. The horrific scene that Nirmal and Horen find on the island also reminds Nirmal that in practice, theory isn't always good and easy—it comes at a cost much of the time.
Kusum refuses the food that Nirmal brought, insisting that it needs to be divided up among those in her neighborhood. As Nirmal measures out some food for Kusum to keep, Kusum stars to cry. She explains that the hunger wasn't the worst part of the siege; the worst part was listening to the police talk about the necessity of preserving the island for wildlife, and the fact that people worldwide pay for the preservation of the island. Kusum wonders who those people are who care more for the wildlife than they do for people, and if they condone killing people for the animals' sake. She thinks that her only crime is being human and trying to live off the land.
Kusum very succinctly voices one of the novel's main ideas here: that conservation efforts often unfold in such a way as to disregard or even harm local people and their way of life. Kusum also recognizes that it's her poverty that means she has to live off the land, in turn getting at the idea that the settlers are also at a disadvantage because they don't have the economic capital to bring about change in the government.