Nature India | Indigenus

Climate pangs

It pains me to hear that one more island in the Bay of Bengal has been gobbled up by the seas. Scientists at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata have arrived at this conclusion by comparing satellite data for over 50 years. The team is yet to publish a peer-reviewed paper on this though.

Close on the heels of the revelation (which follows their 2006 report on the submergence of two other islands in the Sunderban delta), India’s environment Minister Jairam Ramesh mooted a joint action plan with Bangladesh on preserving the the delta’s ecosystem. The Sunderban island conglomerate is spread over 10,000 sq km in both countries.

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Sugata Hazra studies the submergence patterns of the Sunderban islands at Jadavpur University.

During my umpteen visits to the area with researchers of the University when they first chronicled the submergence of two other islands — Lohachara ancd Suparibhanga — I had profusely agonised over the fate of the ‘envirogees’ or environment refugees. This very team of scientists had predicted then that more islands will vanish from the map of the delta over the next two decades.

Having heard of the submergence of New Moore Island now, I can only sigh: the more things change, the more they remain the same!

To me this is more than a climate change, rising sea level issue. There’s a human face to these extreme events — the displaced environment refugees. As science writers we very often tend to report the science behind climate change phenomena — this many centimeters of sea level rise, that many degree celsius tempertaure rise, these many hectares gone to the seas. What we miss out on are the underlying tales — of the farmers who lost their livelihood, the children who lost their playgrounds and schools, the elderly who lost their lives’ makings.

Yes, I have expresed my agitation over this in a blog before. And I will continue to be agitated till I see the state or the Central government or local NGOs do something concrete beyond bipartite action plans and creation of refugee camps on the very islands facing the threat of submergence.

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    Piyashi DebRoy said:

    This piece of news is really very tragic!

    Can you please suggest in any of your future publications as to how environmental economists should address this very issue of the effect of sea level rise on island submergence? This could help in framing integrated approaches for addressing this issue.