Saturday, September 6, 2008

Are We The Bangladesh Of The Future?

One of the first victims of our changing climate is Bangladesh. This low-lying delta is slowly sinking under the weight of the rising seas. There are already great areas of land in the coastal belt that are now under water. If the current climate changes are not reversed soon, much of Bangladesh could be swallowed up by the Bay of Bengal.

There are some very grim possibilities in Bangladesh’s future if the climate changes carry on abated. Within the next 50 years, 17% of Bangladesh’s landmass is certain to be lost to the bay leaving 30 million people homeless and looking for new places to live in a country that is already desperately overcrowded.

For those who live further inland, cyclones and floods will increase in frequency and intensity. Changes in temperature will mean intense torrents of rain followed contrastingly by periods of drought. It is possible that the entire monsoon cycle will collapse.

The Jamuna river is often called the “Jamuna braid”. It is called a “braid” because the river splits in estuaries and channels, joins together again repeatedly and forms a constantly changing landscape of land and water. The islands made of river silt (called chars) are strange-land formations that live in the regions between land and water. The Jamuna braid is home to most of Bangladesh’s chars. The people who live on the chars do so because with a population of 180 million people, every micro-inch of land must be utilized.

These chars have a lifespan of nine years before they are reclaimed by the water. Char dwellers are repeated victims of flooding and river erosion; but, amazingly have found a way to live in this landscape that is literally “here today and gone tomorrow”.

Chars are uninhabitable until they are few years old. Char dwellers tell the age of the islands by the wild plants that have become established on them. There are usually only enough chars surfaced and habitable for the people to have a home made from what they can collect: tin, cardboard, old pieces of wood. They have no place in which to plant crops so the men usually work as weavers or day labourers. They are the “hard-core poor”. They own absolutely nothing; and, have to deal repeatedly with the char disappearing back into the water before they have had a chance to evacuate it.

Many of you are asking, “This is tragic; but, Bangladesh is a long way from me. Why should I be concerned?” True, the effects that are ravishing Bangladesh may not be obviously visible to people in North America, Europe or other countries far from this poor third-world one; but, we must learn from what is happening or we shall be doomed to repeat it.

The world’s oceans are rising. The rise so far has been quite minimal compared to what could happen if both the polar ice caps melted and flooded our planet. Unfortunately for Bangladesh even though the water rising is minimal so far; they are so close to sea level that they have literally lost ground to the ocean. Bangladesh is simply not as large as it used to be. As the waters continue to rise, more coastal areas will be in danger. The United Kingdom is presently facing a loss of some of its coastal land and villages (more on that in another blog).

The water rises, the climate changes; the water rises more, the climate changes more; and so on and so on and so on. It is only a matter of time before everyone, everywhere is affected by this. We can’t all become char dwellers.

Keep encouraging your elected officials to make changes and make them now. Keep reducing your carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. United, we can make a difference.

1 comment:

Kathi said...

Another great post, Philippa!

I'm sure you've seen those projection maps that show what happens globally with (percentage wise) little rise in oceans. As far as it affecting us in the West, Florida, for one, gets covered with water.

This is the only home we have. Let's take care of it.