Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Author Tahmima Anam on Climate Change

Author Tahmima Anam has an article in Thursday's Guardian in which she describes in her beautiful prose the struggles and perseverance of a people who live on a low lying delta.

The facts about climate change in Bangladesh are indeed grim. The country is a low-lying delta, meaning any slight shift in sea levels will cause the land to be slowly swallowed by the waters of the Bay of Bengal. In the next 50 years, 17% of Bangladesh's landmass is sure to go underwater, causing more than 30 million people to become homeless. Those who live further inland will be only slightly better off: the cyclones and floods that are already a feature of the weather will occur more frequently and with greater ferocity. Geological events stimulated by changes in temperature will mean intense pulses of rainfall followed by periods of drought, and a potential collapse of the monsoon cycle itself. If the sea level rises by 5m (16ft), Dhaka will go under. This is the grim reality that the delegates of the UK/Bangladesh climate change conference, taking place in London next Wednesday, will aim to address. In expectation of the climate change deal that will be struck in Copenhagen next year, it is critical that Bangladesh's concerns are more widely known and understood.

Anam tells the story of the "char-dwellers" - people who live on sand bars that come and go as the river waters ebb and flow. Her tale is a great example not only of the hardships that so many in Bangladesh face, but the strength and hospitality with which they overcome it.