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Exclusive : Our Islands Are Vanishing! | Tracing the Inundation of Parali I Island

Looking at the current trend of harmful activities undertaken by humans, the world might have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.

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Parali I
India has lost an entire island to erosion. Lakshadweep is no longer an archipelago of 36 islands (Representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 25, 2017: What if we told you that our landmasses are shrinking and disappearing under water? The earth’s climate is rapidly changing and life is at risk. Human impact on the environment, which first began when our ancestors began to stalk and collect the natural resources. It is now of such intensity that it threatens to radically amend the planet’s ecology – its climate, water, air, and even life.

The highly-dramatized Hollywood fiction film ‘2012’ left deep impressions on our minds, opening us to the possibility of a possible catastrophe. Rising sea levels that submerge complete islands were thought of as a distant possibility of this apocalyptic future. But in the idyllic Indian subcontinent, it seems that the destruction is here already.


The ‘Disappearance’ of Parali I

A report by PTI in early September revealed that the Parali I island, a biodiversity-rich uninhabited island of the Lakshadweep archipelago, has completely vanished due to coastal erosion.

R M Hidayathulla, a PhD scholar from the Calicut University in Kerala, made the revelations in his study titled “Studies on Coastal Erosion in Selected Uninhabited Islands of Lakshadweep Archipelago with Special Reference to Biodiversity Conservation.”

“We can say Lakshadweep now is not an archipelago of 36 islands,” Hidayathulla was quoted as saying.

In the study, Hidayathulla assessed the biodiversity confining to five uninhabited islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago – Bangaram, Thinnakara, Parali I, II and III.

Parali I, part of the Bangaram Atoll, that stretched across 0.032 km2 in 1968, has now eroded to a 100 per cent extent thus, resulting in its complete inundation.

Parali I
A few islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago. Bangaram atoll can be seen here. Wikimedia

Hidayathulla, in his study, has further claimed that a general trend of erosion has been noticed in almost all islands that were studied. Thus, while we have already lost one island, another four stand at risk of similar inundation.

According to distinguished climate expert, Mr Chandra Bhushan, the research by Hidayathulla is one of the few studies carried in India to establish the erosion and complete inundation of an island.

“India’s coasts and islands, which are densely populated, are highly vulnerable,” told Mr Bhushan, who is currently associated with the Centre for Science and Environment as deputy director general.

The Ghoramara village in the Sunderban delta, West Bengal, was the first region of the Indian territory to face the brunt of the rising water levels. More than 50 per cent of the village was inundated in the mid-2000s.

However, erosion of the Ghoramara was never paid much attention to by the media or the government as it was not of immediate economic interest to the larger population.

While Ghoramara continues to shrink and Parali I has already inundated, with another four islands expected to follow the route, our land masses are at risk. But the issue has remained largely ignored.

Reporter Soha Kala of NewsGram brings you an exclusive conversation with Mr Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi where he shares his insight about the fate of the world’s vanishing islands.

“Banishing of Parali I is just the beginning and
We are going to see much more devastation.
The US has just suffered two hurricanes and three are in line.
The Caribbean has been devastated. India has been
experiencing extremely bad weather
. In such a scenario,
The media has been unable to understand and prioritize
the important issues of all times and, therefore, they are
not reporting them.”

 

Media coverage of the world’s vanishing islands’ plight has been comprehensive. Around the world and in a variety of languages, the tiny country Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and several others in the Pacific region have been a topic for discussion in the last few years.

These islands have become the poster child for the impact of the greenhouse effect and global warming, and have definitely provided a definite face to climate change and its repercussions. Journalists have extensively covered the story of Tuvalu’s sea-level rise. The inundation of the Solomon Islands also received due coverage with The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Washington Post being some of the media outlets that reported on the issue.

However, the Indian media is yet to take into account the fate of the Parali I island, with the attention paid to the issue ranging from scanty coverage to mere ignorance.

“I think one of the reasons is because Parali I is an island somewhere in the Indian ocean- out of sight, out of mind. Parali I was not habituated, which means the absence of an economic interest.  And, therefore, it has not been of much interest to the mainstream media,” believes Mr Bhushan.

Mr Bushan agrees that the question NewsGram is raising is absolutely important – Indian mainstream media seems to be losing sight of some of the most important issues of our time. Environment and climate change are one of them.

Why is Sea Level Rising?

Mr Bhushan asserts that the threat of rising sea levels has been previously drastically underestimated. The sea level continues to rise at more than 3 mm per year; a trend Mr Bhushan suggests is only going to hasten because of global warming.

“About two-thirds of the global warming is currently being absorbed by the oceans. As the water warms, it expands and therefore, the sea level rises”, he explained.

Additionally, as the temperatures continue on an upward trend, the glaciers and sea ice continue to melt, which normally increases the sea level.

“Global warming is going to continue and sea levels are going to rise because of the past carbon dioxide emissions, the current emissions and the future projected emissions. Even if we reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which is highly unlikely, we will see the temperature increase of about 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era”, believes Mr Bhushan.

This spiralling trend signals that the low-lying islands and coastal areas will be susceptible to inundation and some islands will vanish.

The list of which has already begun.

“There is a very clear prediction that some of the
important islands of Maldives are going to get
reduced in size or even completely inundated.  Similar things
will happen in Lakshadweep as well as some parts of
Andaman. Also, Bay of Bengal and Sundarbans are
extremely vulnerable. In the worst case scenario, about a third
of Bangladesh will go down.”

 

The Key Drivers of Climate Change

The Earth is home to millions of species. But only one dominates it and i.e Humans.

Our attitudes, inventiveness and practices have a profound impact and have in fact, modified most parts of our planet. Looking at the current trend, it won’t be wrong to say that we are the drivers of several global problems the world is currently facing.

A research by the Australian National University (ANU) had revealed in February that humans are forcing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.

For the last 7,000 years, the principal forces to drive changes in the climate have been astronomical in nature – changes in the orbital parameters and the solar intensity, and the nature and activity of volcanoes. According to Professor Steffen of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Climate Change Institute at ANU, these factors when combined drive a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century.

However, “human-generated greenhouse gas emissions in the last 45 years have increased this rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century,” he said in an official report.

We are not implying that the damage by geological processes or the astronomical forces of the solar system has minimized. But, in comparison to their impact in a mere 45 year period, they are now negligible in comparison to the influence exercised by us.

Such is the destruction caused by humans and this does not cease to stop.

What Can Be Done To Save Our Islands From Vanishing?

Mr Chandra Bhushan believes humanity still has a chance to delay, if not prevent, catastrophic climate change, but time is rapidly running out.

During our conversation with him, the environmental expert highlighted the necessity to immediately undertake coastal and island protection measures- bio-protection being the first line of defense.

He asserted the importance of maintaining healthy mangroves and deciding against mindfully modifying the coastal areas.

Mangroves are known to reduce wave energy as waves travel through them; thus, a healthy practice would be to maintain at least 200 metres of mangrove belts between the embankment and the sea to protect the landmass from eroding.

While this may seem like a practical alternative against erosion, the mangroves themselves are susceptible to erosion when the soil under their root systems is destabilized by wave action.

To counter the damage, seawalls and other man-made protection measures have been built in some areas of the country- the most notable being the sea walls in Marine Drive and in Pudducherry.

Parali I
The sea-wall at Marine Drive, Mumbai. Wikimedia

These concrete structures called tetrapods have been used to reduce the impact of the sea. But if you think these are sufficient to help us wage a war against the strength of Nature, then you should probably reconsider your stand.

The tetrapods in Mumbai require to be replaced annually, or a certain area of the well gets inundated. Similarly, the rising water levels have been eroding the sea walls in Pudducherry as a result of which the walls are collapsing.

Mr Chandra Bhushan told our reporter Soha Kala that all these are temporary solutions till we address the fundamental issue of reversing the global warming. Without this, it will be a losing battle.

He suggested that we look at temporary short-term measures as well as long-term measures to counter the loss of land masses.

“The world today is talking about how to reduce
emission
 but reducing emission is not going to
be sufficient. 

You have to start talking about negative emission
– of 
sucking carbon dioxide from atmosphere and
storing it somewhere.”

Is there nothing that can save our islands from erosion and subsequent inundation?

“As I see, looking at the global trend right now, I am not very optimistic,” said Mr Bhushan.

While we are yet to witness the mainstream media tend to the inundation of Parali I, what is equally upsetting is to see no reaction from the government either.

“Climate change is the gangrene that the
world is 
facing right now. I tell this to everyone,
it is as if you 
have gangrene and the
governments are putting a bandage on it.

They are not thinking about surgery.”

We are currently facing a very grave crisis, the gravity of which has not been sufficiently recognized by the Central government which is yet to release any official statement on the issue. And Mr Bhushan agrees. He told NewsGram that as far as his information, the Indian Government, or for that matter, governments across the world are not serious enough- serious to the proportion of the crisis that we face.

Analyzing the current trend, Dr Bhushan said, “A number of areas will get devastated.  I think the world will have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.”

 

 

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Prince Charles Arrives in New Delhi for two day Visit to Meet PM Narendra Modi

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife arrived New Delhi for a two-day visit to India to complete their 10-day four-nation tour

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Prince Charles
Prince Charles visits India with his wife for two days. Wikimedia.

New Delhi, Nov 9: Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, arrived New Delhi on Wednesday on a two-day visit to India at the final leg of their 10-day four-nation tour that also took them to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

“Their Royal Highnesses Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive,” the British High Commission in India tweeted.

Prince Charles is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday evening and discuss a wide range of issues, including that of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will take place in April 2018 in the UK.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles arrives in India with his wife. IANS.

Ahead of the royal couple’s arrival, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economic cooperation, and other bilateral issues would also come up for discussion.

Bilateral trade between India and Britain stands at $12.19 billion. India is the third largest investor in Britain and the second largest international job creator in that country.

Britain is the third largest inward investor in India, with a cumulative equity investment of $24.37 billion for the period April 2000-June 2017

The Indian diaspora in UK is one of the largest ethnic minority communities in the country, with the 2011 census recording approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin equating to almost 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6 per cent of the country’s GDP.

This will be Prince Charles ‘s ninth visit to India. He had earlier visited India in 1975, 1980, 1991, 1992, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2013. (IANS)

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Delhi Smog: Smog turns Delhi into a gas chamber

Writers call to confront the smog.

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Delhi smog
Delhi turns into a gas chamber as smog covers the city. wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Nov 8: When acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh was writing “The Great Derangement”, a work of nonfiction on the burning issue of climate change, many in literary circles asked him: “Why would you write about something so boring?”

Some two years down the line, as the eyes burn and lungs choke in the “gas chamber” that residents of Delhi find themselves in, his book is a fitting examination of the scale and dangers of climate change.

It was not just a few in literary circles who failed to recognise the problem of climate change; for most of us, it remained something vague. in an interview to this correspondent just ahead the launch of “The Great Derangement”, Ghosh had abruptly asked: “Did you notice the smog that had filled the air just before the onset of winter?”

“I think I did,” I replied. “Well what did you do about it,” he immediately retorted.

Ghosh’s book, however, was a timely response to climate change and deserved much more attention than what it received then.

“Are we deranged,” asks Ghosh in the book and argues that future generations may well think so. “How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming?” It was his first major book of nonfiction since “In an Antique Land”, and in its pages Ghosh examines our inability — at the level of literature, history and politics — to grasp the scale of climate change.

“In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities like Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first, and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what should they — what can they — do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognizing the realities of their plight? Quite possibly then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement,” he writes in the book.

Ghosh had added in the interview that, at first, his concerns were about the damage that we are doing to the environment — but climate change is something much bigger.

“When we are talking about environmental impacts, we are talking about specific ecological systems, about specific environments and the ways in which human beings have impacted them. But climate change is something much bigger.

“We are talking about an inter-connected earth’s system, which is changing in ways that after a certain point human beings can’t actually control what is going to happen and that seems to be a situation that we are already in. These changes are occurring in ways that we can no longer impact them. If you look around the world and see what writers are writing about, very few are actually confronting this issue,” he had said.

He also pointed out that, in his opinion, there were no simple or easy solutions.

“What has actually happened is that we have lost the tools, and the ways of thinking, which allow us to understand or even to register what is happening around us. Even if we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of some of these changes, either we are unable to connect it to wider issues of climate change that are occurring or we are unable to think of it in an imaginative way.

“Something is happening, which is going to be, in the long run, catastrophic and yet we are unable to find some story for it,” he maintained.

The fundamental point that Ghosh raised in that interview was that artists, writers and filmmakers have not really given climate change the attention it needs.

He had said that he is “not in the business of finding solutions” but pointed out that one good way to finding a solution is to “understand the gravity and magnitude of the situation we are all in”.

Ghosh suggests that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence — a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms.

A few weeks from now, the smog may fade away and the perils of today may disappear both from the headlines and our minds. But Ghosh’s book will continue to serve as a great writer’s call to confront the most urgent task of our time.( IANS.)

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Editorial Freedom Should be used Wisely in Public Interest says PM Narendra Modi to Media

Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Monday said that editorial freedom should be used in public interest and urged the newspapers to devote space to increase awareness about climate change

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Editorial Freedom
PM Narendra Modi speaks about Editorial Freedom. Wikimedia

Chennai, Nov 6: Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Monday said that editorial freedom should be used in public interest and urged the newspapers to devote space to increase awareness about climate change.

Speaking at the 75th anniversary celebrations of Tamil newspaper Daily Thanthi at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium, Modi said lot of things happen around the world and the editors decide what is important to be published in their newspapers.

He said: “Editorial freedom should be used wisely and in public interest.”

Pointing out the natural calamities occurring around the world at regular intervals, PM Modi urged newspapers to allocate space to increase awareness about climate change.

Narendra Modi said the freedom to write does not in anyway reduce the importance to be accurate and correct, adding that though media outlets may be owned by the private sector, they serve a public purpose, have much social accountability and their conduct should be above board.

editorial freedom
Media must use editorial freedom with public interest, says PM Modi. Wikimedia.

He said technological advancement enables citizens to compare, discuss and analyse the credibility of news and the media should take extra caution to maintain its credibility.

According to him, reform in media can come from within and through introspection.

Observing most of the media discourse revolves around politics, Modi said the nation is made of over a billion people and the media should focus on the people and their achievements.

Citing the spread of mobile phones, Modi said citizen reporting is important in showcasing individual achievements and also helping in the aftermath of natural disasters.

PM Narendra Modi also released a souvenir.

Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and his deputy O.Pannerselvam also participated in the function.

Paying encomiums to the founder of Daily Thanthi S.P. Adithanar and his son Sivanthi Adithan, Palaniswami said the daily would certainly see centenary celebrations.

Leaders of several political parties, law makers, industrialists, movie actors and diplomats attended the function.

Earlier on his arrival PM Modi was received by Purohit, Palaniswami and others at the airport.

From the airport Modi reached the INS Adyar naval base here in a helicopter.

At INS Adyar, Modi had a meeting with Palaniswami and discussed about the rain and relief situation in Chennai and neighbouring districts. (IANS)