SHIAMNAGAR, Bangladesh (AP) — With each tide, Abdus Sattar sees the ocean eroding his life a little more.
His village Bonotola in southwestern Bangladesh, with muddy roads and tin-roofed houses, was once home to more than 2,000 people. Most were farmers like 58-year-old Sater. Then rising seas poisoned the soil with salt water. Two cyclones in the last two years destroyed the earthen embankments protecting the village from tidal waves.
Now, only 480 people are left, the rest are rendered homeless due to the sea.
The effects of global warming – particularly increased cyclones, and coastal and tidal floods that bring salt water further inland – are ravaging Bangladesh and destroying the livelihoods of millions, according to the non-profit Center for Participatory Mohamed Shamsuddoha, chief executive of Research Development, said.
“This is a serious concern for a country like Bangladesh,” he said, adding that estimates suggest that around 30 million people may be displaced from the country’s coastal areas.
Countries like Bangladesh are pushing for more financial aid to tackle global warming, with world leaders gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, for the UN climate summit this week.
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A decades-old deal to give $100 billion each year to poor countries to switch to clean energy for richer countries and adapt to climate change has not materialised. Even the money that is being provided – about $80 billion in 2019 – is spread too thin to make much of a difference on the ground.
Najma Khatoon, 43, is struggling to feed her two daughters in Gabura, another village in the Bengal river delta. Half of her meager daily income—less than $3 from sewing and selling clothes—goes toward medicine for skin diseases, she says, adding that everyone in the village is suffering because of rising sea levels, which have contaminated land and water. have make.
“We have water everywhere, but we don’t even have a drop to drink from ponds or wells,” she said.
This land was once fertile. Khatoon said mangoes and jackfruits flourished, and everyone grew vegetables in their backyards, relying on ponds, rivers and wells for drinking water.
“Now it is impossible. Look at the pond here, the fresh water is gone,” she said.
In 1973, 833,000 hectares (3,216 sq mi) of land was affected by encroached sea water, which was accelerated by more frequent cyclones and high tides that contaminated water supplies. It is bigger than the US state of Delaware.
According to the Soil Resource Development Institute of Bangladesh, this increased to 1.02 million hectares (3,938 sq mi) in 2000 and 1.056 million hectares (4,077 sq mi) in 2009. Soil salinity has increased by 26% in the last 35 years.
In Bonbibi Tola village, women gather daily at a handpump to collect water for cooking and drinking. The women walk 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) daily with water.
But this won’t last long. The wells in this region have fresh water only in the months following the monsoon rains. In the summer – when the flow from the Himalayan rivers is reduced – fresh water becomes scarce, said Maheshwari Haldar, one of the women.
“This is the fate to which we all surrender,” she said.
The three villages are located in the southwestern Shyamnagar region of Bangladesh, where 400,000 people live. Officials say the government is short of funds for additional desalination plants to convert salt water into fresh water.
“The area probably needs 500 desalination plants. But we only have 50 or so,” said Alamgir Kabir, director of a local NGO at Nawabenki Ganomukhi Foundation.
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Despite growing its GDP from $6.2 billion in 1972 to $305 billion in 2019, Bangladesh cannot afford to pay the cost of global warming on its own. According to the 2021 Climate Change Performance Index by the non-profit Germanwatch, only six countries in the world are more affected by climate change from 2000 to 2019. In those years, Bangladesh lost 0.41% of its GDP due to climate change, and a single cyclone in 2019 lost $8.1 billion.
Nor should it be, says Abul Kalam Azad, the country’s special envoy for the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a grouping of countries most at risk from the effects of forecasting a warming future. Bangladesh, a country of about 160 million, has historically contributed a fraction of the world’s emissions, and yet the country is being devastated by climate change, he said.
Azad says assistance in the form of high-cost loans will be of no use, but merging low-cost loans with grants will help.
Environmental campaigners say a sea change is needed in the international debate on climate aid to ensure a steady increase in funding to poor, vulnerable countries from a variety of public and private sources.
“You also need to make sure that at least 50% of the funds go into adaptation (for climate change) because people are on the front lines,” said Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International.
Speaking to fellow leaders on Monday, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the thorny issue of major polluters paying compensation for the destruction caused by global warming.
“The issue of loss and damage must be addressed, including by global sharing of responsibility for climate migrants and people displaced by sea level rise, increased salinity, river erosion, floods, droughts,” she said.
There is already a provision for this in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Article 8 states that the Parties to the Agreement, “recognize the importance of mitigating, mitigating and addressing the harm and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including the occurrence and risk of extreme weather events and slow-onset events.” Sustainable development’s role is involved in mitigating about loss and damage.”
“Unfortunately, not a single penny has been paid for the loss and damage,” Salimul Haque, director of the Bangladesh-based International Center for Climate Change and Development, said in a recent documentary.
Haq argues that a compensation fund for oil spills offers a blueprint for how major polluters, particularly fossil fuel companies, can provide funding to countries whose islands have been washed away or farmland deserted as a result of global warming. have turned.
Rich countries like the United States are wary of any suggestion that they may be legally liable for their decades-long greenhouse gas emissions that are still in the atmosphere.
But it will be important to address such issues in Glasgow, Haq said. “Otherwise, developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, will consider (the convention) a failure.”
For Sater, it will already be too late.
Every morning, waves break through his house and soon he, his wife and two sons must flee. The sea has taken away their future and their past, he said, pointing to a filthy moat, which was once a courtyard where the graves of his parents were.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.
Ghoshal reported from New Delhi. Frank Jordan in Berlin contributed to this report.