SHYAMNAGAR, Bangladesh (AP) – With each tide, Abdus Sutter watches the sea erode some more of his life.
His village of Bonnotola in southwestern Bangladesh, with its muddy roads and tin-roofed houses, was once home to more than 2,000 people. Most of them were farmers, such as the 58-year-old Sutter. Then the rising sea poisoned the soil with salt water. Two cyclones in the past two years have destroyed the mud mounds that protected the village from tidal waves.
Now there are only 480 people left, the rest were left homeless by the sea.
According to Mohammad Shamsuddoh, executive director of the not-for-profit Collaborative Research Center, the effects of global warming – especially the increase in cyclones, coastal and tidal floods that carry salt water further inland – are devastating Bangladesh and destroying the livelihoods of millions of people.
“This is a serious problem for a country like Bangladesh,” he said, adding that projections indicate that about 30 million people could be displaced from the country’s coastal regions.
World leaders gathered this week in Glasgow, Scotland for a UN climate conference, and countries like Bangladesh are pushing for more financial support to cope with global warming.
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The 10-year deal for rich countries to provide poor countries with $ 100 billion annually to move to clean energy and adapt to climate change has not been fulfilled. Even the money provided – about $ 80 billion in 2019 – is too small to be of great value on the ground.
In Gabur, another village in the Bengal Delta, 43-year-old Nazma Khatun is struggling to feed her two daughters. Half of her meager daily income – less than $ 3 from sewing and selling fabric – goes to medications for skin conditions that she says everyone in the village suffers from rising sea levels that have polluted land and water.
“We have water everywhere, but we no longer have a drop of water to drink from ponds or wells,” she said.
This land was once fertile. Hatun said that mangoes and jackfruit once flourished and everyone grew vegetables in their backyard, relying on ponds, rivers and wells for drinking water.
“Now it’s impossible. Here is a pond, there is no more fresh water, ”she said.
In 1973, 833,000 hectares (3,216 sq mi) of land were affected by seawater invasion, accelerated by more frequent cyclones and higher tides that polluted water sources. This is more than the state of Delaware in the United States.
According to the Bangladesh Soil Development Institute, this rose 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% over the past 35 years.
In Bonbibi Tola village, women gather daily at a hand pump well to draw water for cooking and drinking. Women walk up to 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) daily, dragging water.
But this will not last long. Wells in the region only have fresh water in the months after the rains. In the summer, when runoff from the Himalayan rivers decreases, fresh water becomes scarce, said one of the women, Maheshwari Halder.
“This is the fate we all submit to,” she said.
These three villages are located in the southwest of Bangladesh, in the Shyamnagar area, home to 400,000 people. Officials say the government has no funding for additional desalination plants to convert salt water to fresh water.
“The region needs about 500 desalination plants. But we are only 50 or so, ”said Alamgir Kabir, director of the local nongovernmental organization Navabenki Ganomukha Foundation.
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Despite the rise in gross domestic product from $ 6.2 billion in 1972 to $ 305 billion in 2019, Bangladesh cannot pay for global warming on its own. According to the 2021 Climate Change Performance Index, compiled by the non-profit organization Germanwatch, only six countries in the world were most affected by climate change between 2000 and 2019. In those years, Bangladesh lost 0.41% of its gross domestic product due to climate change, and a single cyclone in 2019 caused losses of $ 8.1 billion.
And it shouldn’t be, says Abul Kalam Azad, the country’s special envoy to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the group of countries most at risk from the effects predicted in a hotter future. Bangladesh, a country of about 160 million people, has historically accounted for a small fraction of the world’s emissions, he said, and yet the country is being destroyed by climate change.
Azad says aid in the form of high-value loans will be useless, but low-cost loans combined with grants will help.
Proponents of environmental campaigns argue that a fundamental change is needed in the international climate aid debate to ensure a steady increase in funding for 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 to adaptation (to climate change), because people are at the forefront,” said Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International.
Speaking to fellow leaders on Monday, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the thorny issue that major polluters are paying compensation for the destruction caused by global warming.
“There is a need to address the issue of loss and damage, including a global sharing of responsibility for climate migrants and people displaced by rising sea levels, 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 pact “recognize the importance of preventing, minimizing and eliminating losses and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather and slow-onset events, and the role of sustainable development in risk reduction. loss and damage “.
“Unfortunately, not a cent was paid for the loss and damage,” said Salimul Hook, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh in a recent documentary.
Hook argues that the Oil Spill Compensation Fund offers a model of how major pollutants, especially fossil fuel companies, can provide funding to countries whose islands have been washed away or farms have been deserted by global warming.
Wealthy countries like the United States are wary of any suggestion that they might be legally responsible for their perennial greenhouse gas emissions, which still remain in the atmosphere.
But solving such problems in Glasgow will be critical, Hook said. “Otherwise, developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, will find (the conference) a failure.”
It may be too late for Sutter.
Every morning waves will rush into his house, and soon he, his wife and two sons will have to flee. The sea swept away their future and past, he said, pointing to a muddy trench that was once the courtyard where his parents’ graves lay.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.
Gosal reported from New Delhi. Frank Jordaens from Berlin contributed to this report.