Aniruddha Gosal and Al-Emrun Garjon
SYLHET, Bangladesh ( Associated Press) — Scientists say climate change is a factor behind the erratic and early rains that have caused unprecedented flooding in Bangladesh and northeast India, killing dozens and making millions miserable.
Although floods are not uncommon in this region, they usually occur at the end of the year when the monsoon rains come.
Heavy rains this year hit the area in March. It may take much longer to determine the extent to which climate change has played a role in the floods, but scientists say it has made monsoons — seasonal weather changes typically associated with heavy rain — more variable in recent decades. This means that most of the rain that is expected to fall during the year falls within a few weeks.
The northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya received almost three times the average rainfall in June in just the first three weeks of the month, while the neighboring state of Assam received twice the average monthly rainfall in the same period. Several rivers, including one of Asia’s largest, flow downstream from the two states into the Bay of Bengal in low-lying Bangladesh, a populous delta nation.
The Bangladesh Flood Forecasting and Warning Center warned on Tuesday that more rain will fall in the next five days, and that water levels in the northern regions of the country will remain dangerously high.
Monsoons, vital to the agrarian economies of India and Bangladesh, have been changing since the 1950s, with longer dry spells interspersed with heavy rains, said Roxy Matthew Call, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune. extreme precipitation is also predicted to increase.
So far, flooding in northwestern Bangladesh has been rare, while the tea-growing state of Assam has usually dealt with floods at the end of the year, during the normal rainy season. The sheer amount of early rain this year, which hit the region in just a few weeks, makes the current floods an “unprecedented” situation, said Anjal Prakash, director of research at India’s Bharti Public Policy Institute, who contributed to the UN-sponsored study. about global warming.
“This is something we have never heard of and never seen,” he said.
A total of 36 people have died in Bangladesh since May 17, while Indian authorities said the death toll from flooding in Assam has risen to 78, with another 17 killed by landslides.
Hundreds of thousands of displaced people and millions of people in the region are forced to look for makeshift evacuation centers.
Some, such as Mohammad Rashik Ahamed, a shopkeeper in Sylhet, the worst-affected city in northeastern Bangladesh, have returned home in dismay with their families to see what can be saved. While wading through knee-deep water, he said he was worried that the flood waters would rise again. “The weather is changing … at any moment a new catastrophe can occur.”
According to an analysis by the World Bank Institute in 2015, he is one of approximately 3.5 million Bangladeshis who face the same predicament every year when rivers flood.
A country of 160 million people is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change, and the poor are disproportionately affected.
Mohammad Arfanuzzaman, a climate change expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said catastrophic floods like the one that happened this year could have consequences ranging from crop losses for farmers and falling into a debt trap to children unable to go to school and be at increased risk of illness.
“Poor people are suffering greatly from the ongoing flooding,” he said.
Ghosal reported from New Delhi. Associated Press contributors Julhas Alam of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Victoria Milko of Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
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