Dangers in Bangladesh: On the Front Lines of Climate Change
Many people in southern Bangladesh have never even heard of climate change. Yet should ocean levels rise even slightly, their existence would be imperiled. A visit to the global warming trenches.
Shahidul Mullah really doesn't have any time. Along with his friends from the island Char Bangla, he's perched on the bamboo frame of a roof that will eventually cover a new barn he is building for his cows and chickens. But time is a luxury Shahidul doesn't have. As he knows all too well, monsoon season is on its way -- and when it arrives, virtually the entire island will be flooded. The barn has to be ready by then, especially the thatched roof.
The word climate change is one that Shahidul -- who has no electricity, no television, and can't read -- has never heard before. Yet while the debate on global warming and its likely consequences rages across the globe, the 32-year-old farmer lives on the absolute frontline of climate change. His char, Bengali for island, stretches out deep into the Bay of Bengal like a finger. Flowing past it is one of the 13 rivers that make Bangladesh into a giant delta, sandwiched between the glaciers of the Himalayas and the bay. Just 20 meters from his house, a glittering mass of water moves peacefully in the direction of the nearby ocean. Any rise in global ocean levels will hit Shahidul and his family first.
Even without television and newspapers, Shahidul can sense that something just isn’t right about the weather. “It gets warmer every year, there are more storms and the monsoon doesn’t come on time,” he says. The water level in front of his house also rises a little every year. “When I moved here, we still had three fields in front of the house. Now there are only two,” Shahidul goes on. “I’m afraid the water will take another piece away from me this year.” As a precautionary measure, he had the platform for his little barn built half a meter higher. “You never know what will happen.”
“Right now we’re trying to find out more about it,” says Libtom. Erratic weather is completely normal in the region, he says. People know how to deal with it. The government sees things similarly, having only just established a working group to look into the IPCC study.
- Part 1: On the Front Lines of Climate Change
- Part 2: Praying for Good Weather
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