Global Warming Impact in South Asia
The South Asian governments are sufficiently concerned about potential effects of global warming to warrant a meeting to hammer out a regional response. South Asian experts on climate change are beginning two days of talks in Dhaka today, ahead of a meeting of environment ministers from countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). According to Reuters, Bangladesh has proposed the creation of a fund to fight climate change in densely populated South Asia, which experts say is vulnerable to rising seas, melting glaciers and greater extremes of droughts and floods. For the rich South Asians thinking of fleeing to real estate in Dubai, the forecast for the GCC countries is no better. Experts believe the Palm and the World projects in Dubai will disappear underwater in 50 years if the issue of climate change fails to be addressed by governments.
The nonprofit Worldwatch Institute has compiled a list of 21 "mega-cities" of 8 million people or more that are in direct danger as a result of global warming and rising seas: They include Dhaka, Bangladesh; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Shanghai and Tianjin in China; Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt; Mumbai and Kolkata in India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Osaka-Kobe in Japan; Lagos, Nigeria; Karachi, Pakistan; Bangkok, Thailand, and New York and Los Angeles in the United States, according to studies by the United Nations and others.
More than one-tenth of the world's population, or 643 million people, live in low-lying areas at risk from climate change, according to U.S. and European experts. Most at risk, in descending order, are China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the U.S., Thailand and the Philippines.
As a nation, Bangladesh has the most to worry about the effects of climate change in South Asia. A recent story in the Guardian talks about Bangladesh as "flood-prone" because of its geography. Situated across a vast delta where three great rivers join, Bangladesh is known to be flood-prone. Not only does it have monsoon rain to deal with, but the slow warming of the earth's atmosphere is releasing more water from Himalayan glaciers above the flatlands of Bangladesh. Climate change, say scientists, also means higher tides in the Bay of Bengal. The result is trillions more liters of water sloshing over the country, depositing billions of tons of sediment. Experts say a third of Bangladesh's coastline could be flooded if the Bay of Bengal rises three feet in the next 50 years, displacing 20 million Bangladeshis from their homes and farms, according to Reuters. Across the region, warmer weather could cause more intense and more frequent cyclones and storm surges, leading to more salt water fouling waterways and farmlands, the experts said. Corp yields in South Asia could decrease up to 30 percent by the mid-21st century, they added.
Bangladesh has taken the initiative by proposing a SAARC fund for climate change and allocated US$44 million for this purpose in its current fiscal year budget. "We want to find a common stand among the South Asian countries and will raise our voice together against the perils of climate changes," said Raja Devasish Roy, head of the Environment and Forest Ministry of Bangladesh, after opening the experts' meeting in Dhaka today. Devasish said industrialized countries were the most to blame for global warming and should compensate poorer nations by providing them grants -- not loans -- to fight the effects of climate change.
While Bangladesh is admirably leading the charge to address the impact of climate change, it is important that the rest of South Asians, particularly India and Pakistan, join it to protect the planet in this noble effort. As part of this challenge, it is time for SAARC leaders to think of structural changes needed for a world without oil. The SAARC nations owe it to their future generations and the rest of the planet.