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‘Great distress’: Bangladesh bears brutal cost of climate crisis | Climate Crisis News
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‘Great distress’: Bangladesh bears brutal cost of climate crisis | Climate Crisis News


Experts claim that global warming is destroying Bangladesh, causing millions to lose their livelihoods.

Bangladesh, a country of about 160 million, has historically contributed a fraction of the world’s emissions, and yet the low-lying delta nation is hard hit by climate change.

Floods wash away villages and crops year after year, breaking through the mud embankments.

Abdus Samad’s home in Protab Nagar village in the southwestern Shyamnagar region was inundated after the village embankment was destroyed by incessant tidal surges. He has already lost his farm land to water.

Samad’s grandsons helped him bring more soil to rebuild the structure and make it liveable. The family is concerned that it won’t last very long.

“We are living in great distress,” Samad told the Associated Press news agency.

An elderly man stands near a tube that was submerged in water at high tide in Pratap Nagar in Shyamnagar, district of Satkhira in Bangladesh [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

Seawater is threatening to be lost

1973 saw 833,000 hectares (3.216 sq miles) of seawater encroaching on land. This was made worse by more frequent cyclones, higher tides, and a greater number of water-contaminated wells.

This is more than Delaware in the United States.

This grew to 1.02 million hectares (3,938 square miles) in 2000, and 1.056 million hectares (4,077 square miles) in 2009, according to Bangladesh’s Soil Resources Development Institute. The soil’s salinity has increased 26 percent in the past 35 years.

The decade-old agreement between rich and poor countries to provide $100bn each year to help them adapt to climate change and switch to clean energy has not been fulfilled. Even the money that is being provided – about $80bn in 2019 – is spread too thin to make much of a difference on the ground.

Experts predict that representatives from all over the globe will gather at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland starting October 31. They will be urging countries like Bangladesh for more financial support to combat global warming.

“We don’t have ample financial and technical capacity. External international support is needed to address all these issues. And according to UN, in fact, the developed countries, the industrialised countries, they are bound to help us under the UN convention,” said Fazle Rabbi Sadeque Ahmed from Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a development organisation that works for sustainable poverty reduction in Bangladesh.

Boys stand by the banks of Gabura, a coastal village in Bangladesh. It has been hit by natural disasters many times in Satkhira, Bangladesh. [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

Nazma Khtun, 43, is struggling to feed her daughters in Gabura, another village of the Bengal River delta.

Half of her meagre daily income – less than $3 from sewing and selling cloth – goes towards medicines for skin diseases that she says everyone in the coastal village of Gabura suffers from due to water and land contamination caused by rising sea levels.

Nazma stated that the land was once fertile. Everyone grew vegetables in their backyard and relied on rivers, ponds, and wells for water.

She now blames saline for all her suffering.

“My children can’t tolerate this water. They have stomach problems, diarrhoea, and dysentery. And they feel sick all the time,” she said.

Officials in the region acknowledge that the government was not able to build new desalination plants to convert salt water into freshwater because of a lack of funds.

Villagers swim through waist-deep water in order to reach their homes at Pratap Nagar, in Satkhira (Bangladesh), where they are located in the Shyamnagar Region, in Satkhira. [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

Bonbibi Tola village is home to women from the surrounding areas who gather every day outside a hand-pumped well to get water for drinking and cooking. Each woman walks up 4km (2.4 miles) daily.

However, this won’t last very long because freshwater in the delta becomes scarce during the summer months when the flow from Himalayan streams decreases.

“During flood, everywhere there is water, but no water for drinking,’ said Ahmed from Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF).

“How could we overcome (this), we know – if we could make their embankment shelter properly if we can make enough desalination plants,” he said.

Global warming costs

Environmental campaigners argue that a global shift is required in the international climate aid debate to ensure a steady increase of funding for poor and vulnerable countries from a variety public and private sources.

Despite seeing its gross national product (GDP), rise from $6.2bn 1972 to $305bn 2019, Bangladesh can’t pay for global warming.

Boats are parked in Gabura’s coastal village, which has been affected by natural disasters multiple times in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

According to Germanwatch’s 2021 Climate Change Performance Index (non-profit organisation), only six countries are more likely to be affected by climate change in the period 2000 to 2019.

In those years, Bangladesh lost 0.41 % of its GDP due climate change. A single cyclone in 2019 also caused losses of $8.1bn.

Villagers, who have lost their land and homes to floodwater, say they are forced to collect small donations “even from the helpless and poor who work as daily labourers” and repair the embankments themselves to prevent saltwater intrusion.

“We are doing it so we can live,” said Mohammed Abu Bakkar Fakir, whose village shop has been swallowed by tidal surges.

Experts agree that summits like the one in Glasgow must address the complex issue of compensating nations for the damage caused by global warming. This is something large polluters long rejected.

This provision is already in the 2015 Paris agreement. Article 8 states that parties to the pact “recognise the importance of averting, minimising 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”.

Rich countries like the USA are wary of such an action because it opens up the possibility of huge financial liabilities for their decades-long greenhouse gases emissions still lingering.

Experts say it is crucial to address such issues in Glasgow.

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