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NEW DELHI - In the vast Sunderbans delta that spans eastern India and Bangladesh, coastal erosion due to rising sea levels has been slowly carving away chunks of its low-lying islands, forcing thousands of people to relocate, according to climate experts.
"When we talk to families in the Sunderbans, we find that only elderly people are left behind. Many young people are already working in different parts of the country as day laborers or semiskilled workers," Harjeet Singh, senior adviser at Climate Action Network International, said.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body, warns that the Indian Ocean is warming faster than other seas. As a result, it says that sea levels around South Asia have increased faster than the global average, leading to coastal area loss and retreating shorelines in densely populated countries such as India and Bangladesh.
That is affecting millions -- a December report by ActionAid and Climate Action Network South Asia estimated that the combined effects of climate change will result in the displacement of 63 million people in South Asia from their homes by 2050 if emissions continue at the same levels.
Many of those displaced will be from coastal communities, and are already seeing their homes regularly inundated from rising sea levels and their farms shrinking or becoming unusable because of increased soil salinity, say experts.
While disasters such as cyclones and floods linked to climate change have grabbed headlines, the displacement of millions of people in the region has gotten less attention.
"The IPCC report points out that the sea level is rising much faster than earlier research had suggested," said Roxy Mathew Koll at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
"A 3-centimeter rise in a decade might not seem much but it is equivalent to 17 meters of land carved out by the sea every decade along the entire coast of India. That is what we are seeing happening currently," Koll said.
Mega cities in India, such as Mumbai and Chennai, have been witnessing increased monsoon flooding, as rural communities along the shore see livelihoods destroyed.
Low-lying Bangladesh, where more than 35 million people live in coastal areas, could lose more than 15% of its land, affecting the homes and livelihoods of millions in coastal areas.
The Sunderbans are a unique stretch of geography near Bangladesh that are proving to be disastrous for those who inhabit these regions Image source: wikimediawikimedia
"This region is not prepared to deal with such levels of displacement because the poor do not have resources to relocate. These climate migrants are mostly pushed into slums in nearby towns and cities, which are already densely populated," Singh said.
Barriers of mud and rock erected by residents, as well as concrete structures, have done little to keep the ocean out.
Bangladesh's government is planning to improve coastal embankments that were built to keep out tidal flooding and offer protection against severe cyclones, according to Malik Fida Khan at the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services in Dhaka.
Ocean damages soil
Even where the land is not swallowed by the ocean, though, the sea water pushing into farms has caused long-term damage.
"We can build embankments and resilience against cyclonic storms and sea level rise, but it is very difficult to handle soil salinity. You need fresh water to push back the salinity," Khan said.
"For example, it will take 50 years or more to remove soil salinity that has increased in 10 years. So, you need different kind of adaptation measures such as growing saline-tolerant varieties of rice," he said.
While Bangladesh has developed several such varieties of rice, some studies say the soil salinity has increased so much that even growing these is difficult.
Nowhere is the situation more dire than in the Sunderbans, often called one of the world's climate hotspots. Increasingly battered by more intense cyclones, the region is witnessing one of the fastest rates of coastal erosion in the world, with islands dotting the delta steadily shrinking, according to several studies.
Ghoramara island in the Indian state of West Bengal for example has diminished by half since 1970, according to several studies. Once home to 40,000 people, India's 2011 census counted only 5,000 on the island.
Those who have grown up in the Sunderbans in India, such as Bhakta Purakayastha, founder of the Sunderbans Social Development Center, describe the dramatic changes they have witnessed.
Storms and floods in the Sunderbans are extremely feared as they wipe out infrastructure from the roots Image source: wikimediawikimedia
"When I was a child, we used to cross the river in a boat. Now the river has shrunk so much due to silt deposits from upstream that we can walk across," he said.
He said fish were once abundant in the river but the catch has shrunk as the rising sea pushes into rivers, affecting poor communities that rely on their rice paddies and fish for sustenance.
"Now they have to go out into the deep sea to catch fish, but rising tides pose a challenge" Purakayastha said.
'We do not have a plan'
A severe cyclone that hit the region in May has exacerbated the problem in the delta, with even drinking water becoming scarce because of rising salinity in rivers.
Experts are calling on regional governments to develop plans to assist the growing tide of climate migrants, saying marginalized communities are the hardest hit by climate change.
"The reality is we do not have a plan, although many of the impacts of climate change are already locked in," Singh of Climate Action Network International said.
"None of the governments in South Asia have specific policies for people forced to migrate due to climate change to eke out a living. Even the recognition of climate induced migration is not there," he said.
(This article is originally by Anjana Pasricha) (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Sunderbans, Climate Change refugees, Disaster, Bangladesh, West Bengal
The police have arrested 10 people in connection with a case of vandalism of four temples, several idols, six shops and some houses of Hindu people in Shiali village of Rupsha Upazila in southern Khulna, a senior police official confirmed on Sunday.
The incident took place on Saturday afternoon following which tension gripped the area forcing the authorities to deploy additional police force, a police official told IANS.
The locals said, a group of female devotees took out a procession at around 9 p.m. on Friday from the Purba Para temple to the Shiali crematorium. They had crossed a mosque on their way, during which the Imam, preacher of the mosque, shouted and objected to the procession. This led to a heated argument between the Hindu devotees and the Islamist cleric. It was decided that the matter would be taken up with the police on Saturday.
The arrests have been made following a complaint filed on Saturday night. The police, however, did not specify that who was charged in the case and who was arrested.
According to the police, around a hundred attackers reached the village on Saturday at around 5:45 p.m. with weapons and started vandalism. During the violence, four temples were desecrated and a house was vandalised. Also, six shops belonging to the people from Hindu community were vandalised in Shiali village
During the violence, four temples were desecrated and a house was vandalised.ians
Shaktipada Basu, the President of local Puja Udjapon Parishad, said that the cops chased away the Hindus when they went to file a complaint at the Shiali Camp police station. Sadhan Adhikari, the chairman of Ghatbhog Union, also reached the village and informed that such an act of violence and vandalism never took place in the village before.
Basu told IANS that more than a hundred Islamists attacked with spades, sickles and carried out mass destruction. They vandalised Ganesh Mallick's medicine outlet in the market, Srivastava Mallick's grocery store, Sourav Mallick's tea and grocery store, Anirban Hira and his father's shop. When Hindus tried to intervene, the miscreants assaulted and injured them badly. Before the villagers could unite and put up a fight, the accused men fled the crime scene.
Besides, the residence of one Shibpadh Dhar was also looted by the miscreants. The 'Govinda temple' in his house was also vandalised. Other temples that were desecrated include the 'Hari temple' of Shiali Purbapara, Durga temple, and Shiali Mahasamshan temple.
Rubaiya Tasnim, Upajila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), said that she had met with local Hindu and Muslim community leaders with administration and police officials shortly after Saturday's incident.
Tasnim said, "We, the district administration and law enforcement officials, went there immediately and meet with the locals to resolve the conflict."
Six shops belonging to the people from Hindu community were vandalised in Shiali village.ians
Officer-in-charge of Rupsha Police Station Sardar Mosharraf Hossain said that the situation in the area was calm. Both the UNO of Rupsa and the OC of the police station said that there was an argument between the two parties over allegations that members of the Hindu community were 'singing' during prayers at the mosque on Friday evening, which they described as a 'misunderstanding'.
However, the UNO of Rupsha Upazila said that the 'conflict' was resolved on the same day and Saturday's attack had nothing to do with the incident. The locals seeking anonymity accused the youth of nearby Chandpur village for orchestrating the attack.
A police team comprising of the Superintendent of Police (SP), Additional SP also reached the crime scene.
Mahboob Hassan, SP (Khulna) informed that police teams had been deployed in the area and the situation in the Shiali village was under control. He said that the cops are coordinating with the local people in this matter.(IANS/HP)
By- Khushi Bisht
"Bangladesh: The Dawn Of Islamism" is a documentary directed by Sandra Petersmann and Hans Christian Ostermann. It explores the country's turbulent past and long-running conflicts between radical Islamists and secularists. It demonstrates how this acrimonious scenario is rapidly nearing a critical threshold.
Bangladesh was formed through the bloodshed of millions of people. According to the Bangladeshi government, around 3 million died in the independence war of 1971, however independent estimates vary significantly. In contrast to Pakistan, Bangladesh declared secularism a foundational pillar of its constitution, despite the fact that Muslims make up the majority of the population.
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However, since its inception, the nation has been afflicted by strife between Islamic Extremist and secular groups. Officially, Bangladesh is secular, but Islamist organizations are constantly calling for a state based on Islamic law. Religious minorities such as Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, as well as atheists, are compelled to live in secrecy.
Bangladesh is pretty much entirely unknown in the West since the country's severe floods, extreme poverty, lack of growth, and appalling working conditions in the textiles sector are the primary subjects that dominate the western news outlets. Terrorism has overrun the nation in recent decades, and most people are unaware of the fact that the country is presently witnessing massive carnage caused by radical Islamic militants.
Who are the victims of these horrendous terror acts, one may wonder?
Bangladesh is wracked by Islamist radicalism. Liberals, secularists, bloggers, and authors who are outspoken critics of extreme brutality and go against Islamic laws are frequently the targets of these terror acts.
Some Muslims are fanatical or devout, so when someone contradicts the Quran or talks ill about Prophet Mohammed's life, these people become enraged and lose their composure.Wikimedia Commons
An avowed atheist named Avijit Roy was among those slain by radical Islamists. Despite his father's warnings that his books and blogs may lead to his execution at the hands of religious fanatics, he attended a book fair in Dhaka in February 2015. This is exactly what happened. Roy was assassinated by Islamic extremists brandishing machetes while walking home with his wife. Although police were present, they did not interfere. He was one of five secular and liberal individuals assassinated in 2015, and the perpetrators have yet to be apprehended. What can we expect from a country with a large radical Muslim population, especially when the criminals are Muslims?
But where does the motivation to slaughter individuals originate from?
The documentary introduces us to Aisha, a blogger (her real name was not used since revealing her identity might put her in danger). She claims that religion, specifically Islam, is taught to children from an early age. She said that youngsters are brainwashed based on the Qur'an teachings. "This is like a virus, it just spreads, unless you have a vaccine or medicine," she added. Aisha believes that adequate education is the only cure.
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Hossain Toufique Imam is Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina's advisor. Bangladesh, he claims, is pretty much entirely a Muslim country. Some Muslims are fanatical or devout, so when someone contradicts the Quran or talks ill about Prophet Mohammed's life, these people become enraged and lose their composure, which is why numerous bloggers have been assassinated by such extremists since they went against the majority.
Islam, according to Mufti Fayezullah, a mosque instructor, is a moderate and liberal faith. He laments the fact that Muslims are unfairly blamed for actions of bigotry whereas people from various religious backgrounds are not. He portrayed himself as a mediator, but he has a darker side, as evidenced by a documentary showing him for the murder of a minister who dared to criticize Muslims' yearly pilgrimage to Mecca.
Overall, the documentary looks into the realities of daily living in Bangladesh and speculates on what the future may bring. It indicates that the country attempting to combine democracy with Islam is finding it more difficult to achieve a balance. The assassination of secular bloggers and the continued limitation of democratic liberties in Bangladesh demonstrate how this delicate balancing act is wobbling on the brink of collapse.
You could soon be enjoying a cruise along the lesser-known rivers such as Feni, Muhuri, Meghna, Gandak and Manas among others in Indias eastern and northeastern parts, which finally flow into Bangladesh. The undiscovered area is exceptionally rich in flora and fauna with a beautiful display of the green and blue that the region has to offer.
As India and Bangladesh prepare for a post Covid 19 world and economic recovery, the two countries have decided to amplify their focus on jointly promoting tourism across the 54 transboundary rivers that are shared by both countries.
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While work on this area has been going on for years, sources said that this will get expedited with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in March. Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart have already underlined the need to boost connectivity between the two countries and even promote people to people contacts.
The Bangladesh government has recently undertaken a feasibility study to assess the main impediments for the project. The study is expected to be complete by the year-end.
“Cross-border tourism and trade through trans-boundary rivers between India and Bangladesh is poised to play a significant role in the socio-economic development of local communities and environmental and cultural preservation in India and Bangladesh,” said Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International at a webinar.
Most importantly, joint promotion of tourism will enhance people to people contact between the two countries while creating employment among people along the border areas. “Development of tourism in that region is also in sync with Modi’s Act East policy. We need to now look at engaging with the northeastern region in a more constructive and inclusive way,” an expert from Observer Research Foundation said.
A CUTS report said that easing of security, visa norms, custom, immigration and health procedures are some of the issues that need to be ironed out by both the governments at the earliest.
Several countries including many in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Thailand have undertaken joint promotion of tourism.
Importance of tourism to boost GDP growth
A study conducted by Pahle India said that several countries are dependent on tourism for its economic growth. While in Maldives, tourism directly accounts for 39.6 per cent of its total GDP, in Cambodia the figure is 14.1 per cent and in Vietnam it is 9.3 per cent, the study pointed out. In UK, tourism accounts for 3.7 per cent of its overall economy and 2.6 per cent in case of the US economy. The tourism industry has strong interlinkages with many other sectors including logistics, aviation, hospitality, handicraft among others.
Several Asian countries are making necessary changes in their policies related to infrastructure development, visas and hospitality to boost tourism, a generator of jobs and foreign exchange. (IANS/GA)