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

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Experts say the effects of global warming are devastating Bangladesh and destroying the livelihoods of millions of people, especially increasing cyclones and flooding that are bringing salt water further inland.

Bangladesh, a country of around 160 million people, has historically contributed a fraction of global emissions, yet this low-lying delta country is hit hard by climate change.

Year after year, floods cross the mud embankments, washing away the crops and the houses of the village.

Abdus Samad’s house in Protab Nagar village, southwestern Shyamnagar region, was flooded after the village embankment was destroyed by relentless tidal waves. He has already lost his farmland to water.

Samad’s grandsons helped him bring in more earth to rebuild the structure and make it habitable. But the family know it might not last long.

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

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

Invasive seawater

In 1973, 833,000 hectares (3,216 square miles) of land was affected by advancing seawater, accelerated by more frequent cyclones and higher tides that contaminated water supplies.

It is larger than the state of Delaware in the United States.

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

A ten-year-old deal for rich countries to give poor countries $ 100 billion each year to switch to clean energy and adapt to climate change has yet to be fulfilled. Even the money provided – around $ 80 billion in 2019 – is too scattered to make much of a difference on the ground.

With representatives from around the world gathered for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, starting October 31, experts say countries like Bangladesh will push for more financial support to deal with global warming.

“We do not have sufficient financial and technical capacity. So, to solve all the problems, we need external international support. And according to the UN, in fact, the developed countries, the industrialized countries, they are required to help us under the UN convention, ”said Fazle Rabbi Sadeque Ahmed of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a development organization that works for sustainable development. poverty reduction in Bangladesh.

Boys stand near the shores of the coastal village of Gabura, which has been repeatedly hit by natural disasters in Satkhira district, Bangladesh [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

In Gabura, another village in the Bengal Delta, Nazma Khatun, 43, struggles to feed her two daughters.

Half of her meager daily income – less than $ 3 from sewing and selling clothes – goes to buy medicine for the skin diseases she says everyone in the coastal village of Gabura suffers from in due to water and land contamination caused by sea level rise.

Nazma said the land was once fertile and everyone grew vegetables in their backyards, depending on ponds, rivers and wells for drinking water.

She now blames the salt water for all of her suffering.

“My children can’t stand this water. They suffer from stomach problems, diarrhea and dysentery. And they feel sick all the time, ”she said.

Officials working in the region admit that lack of funds was preventing the government from building new desalination plants that would convert salt water into fresh water.

Villagers wade through waist-deep water to reach their homes in Pratap Nagar, Shyamnagar region, Satkhira, Bangladesh [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

In the village of Bonbibi Tola, local women gather daily outside a hand-pumped well to collect water for cooking and drinking. Each woman walks up to 4 km (2.4 miles) per day.

But even that won’t last long as fresh water becomes scarce in the delta during the summer months when the flow of the Himalayan rivers decreases.

“During the floods, there is water everywhere, but no drinking water,” said Ahmed of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF).

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

Cost of global warming

Environmental activists say radical change is needed in the international debate on climate assistance to ensure a steady increase in funding for poor and vulnerable nations from a variety of public and private sources.

Although it saw its gross domestic product (GDP) rise from $ 6.2 billion in 1972 to $ 305 billion in 2019, Bangladesh alone cannot pay the cost of global warming.

Boats are parked in the coastal village of Gabura, which has been repeatedly hit by natural disasters in Satkhira district, Bangladesh [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

There are only six countries in the world that are hit hardest by climate change from 2000 to 2019, according to the 2021 Climate Change Performance Index from the nonprofit Germanwatch.

During these years, Bangladesh lost 0.41% of its GDP due to climate change, and a single cyclone in 2019 caused losses of $ 8.1 billion.

Villagers, who lost their land and homes to the floodwaters, say they are forced to collect small donations “even from the poor and poor who work as day laborers” and to repair the embankments themselves. to prevent salt water intrusion.

“We are doing it to be able to live,” said Mohammed Abu Bakkar Fakir, whose village store was engulfed by the tidal waves.

Experts say summits like Glasgow will have to address the thorny issue of compensating countries for the destruction caused by global warming, something big polluters have long resisted.

The 2015 Paris Agreement already contains a provision on this subject. Article 8 states that the parties to the pact “recognize the importance of avoiding, minimizing and addressing the 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 such as the United States are wary of such a move because it opens up the prospect of vast financial liabilities for their greenhouse gas emissions that have lingered in the atmosphere for decades.

But experts say it will be essential to resolve these issues in Glasgow.


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