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Monday, March 20, 2023

Bangladesh’s Villages are Bearing the Reality of Climate Change

Abdus Satter watches as the water eats away at his existence with each passing tide.

With its muddy roads and tin-roofed dwellings, his town of Bonnotola in southwestern Bangladesh originally housed nearly 2,000 people. The majority were farmers, like Satter, who is 58 years old. The increasing waters then contaminated the land with salt water. The mud embankments that protected the community from tidal waves were damaged by two storms in the previous two years.

Only 480 people remain, with the remainder having been displaced by the water.

According to Mohammad Shamsuddoha, chief executive of the nonprofit Center for Participatory Research Development, the effects of global warming, particularly increased cyclones and coastal and tidal flooding that bring salt water further inland, are devastating Bangladesh and destroying the livelihoods of millions.

“It’s a serious problem for a nation like Bangladesh,” he added, noting that forecasts indicate that 30 million people might be relocated from Bangladesh’s coastal districts.

Countries like Bangladesh are calling for additional financial help to cope with global warming as world leaders assemble in Glasgow, Scotland, for a United Nations climate summit this week.

A ten-year agreement between wealthy and poor countries to grant poor countries $100 billion each year to help them transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change has not been fulfilled. Even the money that is being delivered — over $80 billion in 2019 — is too thinly distributed to make much of an impact on the ground.

Nazma Khatun, 43, has been battling to feed her two kids in Gabura, another town in the Bengal River delta. Half of her little daily income — less than $3 from sewing and selling textiles — goes toward treating skin illnesses that she claims everyone in the hamlet is suffering from as a result of rising sea levels that have polluted land and water.

“We have water everywhere,” she explained, “but we don’t have a drop to drink from ponds or wells.”

This was previously a lush land. According to Khatun, mango and jackfruit used to be abundant, and everyone farmed vegetables in their backyards, with drinking water sourced from ponds, rivers, and wells.

“It’s now impossible.” “Look at this pond; the fresh water is gone,” she explained.

In 1973, sea water encroached over 833,000 hectares (3,216 square miles) of land, driven by more frequent storms and higher tides that poisoned water sources. That’s larger than the state of Delaware in the United States.

According to Bangladesh’s Soil Resources Development Institute, this increased to 1.02 million hectares (3,938 square miles) in 2000 and 1.056 million hectares (4,077 square miles) in 2009. Over the last 35 years, soil salinity has grown by 26%.

Women come everyday at a hand-pump well in Bonbibi Tola hamlet to collect water for cooking and drinking. Every day, the ladies trek up to 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to carry water.

This, however, will not endure long. Fresh water is only available in the months after monsoon rainfall in the region’s wells. Fresh water becomes rare in the summer, when the flow of Himalayan rivers falls, according to one of the ladies, Maheswari Halder.

“This is the fate we’ve all accepted,” she explained.

The three villages are located in the Shyamnagar area of Bangladesh, which has a population of 400,000 people. Officials claim that the government does not have the funds to build more desalination facilities to turn salt water to fresh water.

“Around 500 desalination plants are required in the area.” But we only have around 50,” said Alamgir Kabir, director of the Nawabenki Ganomukhi Foundation, a local NGO.

Bangladesh’s gross domestic product has increased from $6.2 billion in 1972 to $305 billion in 2019, yet it is still unable to cover the costs of global warming on its own. According to Germanwatch’s 2021 Climate Change Performance Index, only six nations in the world were more affected by climate change between 2000 and 2019. Bangladesh lost 0.41 percent of its GDP owing to climate change in those years, and a single hurricane in 2019 cost the country $8.1 billion.

According to Abul Kalam Azad, the country’s special envoy to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of nations most vulnerable to the effects of a warmer future, it shouldn’t. Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, has traditionally contributed a small percentage of global emissions, yet it is being ravaged by climate change, he added.

According to Azad, high-cost loans would be useless, while low-cost loans mixed with grants would be beneficial.

Environmentalists argue that a sea change in the worldwide discussion on climate assistance is required to secure a constant rise in financing from a mix of public and private sources for poor, vulnerable countries.

“You also need to make sure that at least half of the funds go to adaptation (to climate change) because people are on the front lines,” Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International’s executive director, said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the thorny issue of major polluters paying compensation for the destruction caused by global warming in a speech to fellow leaders on Monday.

“The issue of loss and destruction must be addressed,” she added, “including global sharing of responsibility for climate migrants and those displaced by sea-level rise, salt increases, river erosion, floods, and droughts.”

This is already addressed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Parties to the pact, according to Article 8, “recognize the importance of averting, minimizing, and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow-onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage,” and “recognize the importance of averting, minimizing, and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow-onset events, and the

In a recent documentary, Saleemul Huq, head of the Bangladesh-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said, “Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a single dime paid for loss and destruction.”

Huq claims that an oil spill compensation fund may serve as a model for how major polluters, notably fossil fuel industries, might help nations whose islands have been swept away or whose fields have become deserts as a result of global warming.

Rich countries, like as the United States, are apprehensive of any suggestion that they may be held legally responsible for long-term greenhouse gas emissions that are still present in the atmosphere.

However, Huq believes that tackling similar challenges in Glasgow would be crucial. “Otherwise, the (conference) would be regarded as a failure by poor nations, particularly the most vulnerable.”

It may already be too late for Satter.

Waves pound their house every morning, and he, his wife, and their two boys may soon be forced to evacuate. He pointed to a muddy pit that was once a courtyard where his parents’ graves were, saying that the water had took away their future and their history.

He stated, “It’s only a matter of time.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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