Monday, October 3, 2022

Climate change a factor in ‘unprecedented’ South Asia floods

Sylhet, Bangladesh ( Associated Press) – Climate change is a factor behind erratic and early rains that triggered unprecedented floods in Bangladesh and northeast India, killing dozens and leaving millions of lives miserable, scientists say .

Although the region is no stranger to flooding, it usually occurs later in the year when the monsoon rains are well underway.

This year’s torrential rains ravaged the region in early March. It may take longer to determine the extent to which climate change played a role in flooding, but scientists say it has made the monsoon – a seasonal change in weather usually associated with heavy rains – last decades. is more variable. This means that most of the rain that occurs in a year is coming in a span of weeks.

The northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya received nearly three times its June average rainfall in the first three weeks of the month, and neighboring Assam received twice its monthly average in the same period. Several rivers, including one of the largest rivers in Asia, flow downstream from both states, joining the Bay of Bengal at a lower level in Bangladesh, a densely populated delta nation.

With more rain predicted for the next five days, Bangladesh’s Flood Forecast and Warning Center warned on Tuesday that water levels in the country’s northern regions will remain dangerously high.

Important to the agricultural economies of India and Bangladesh, the monsoon pattern has been changing since the 1950s, with prolonged dry seasons accompanied by heavy rains, said Roxy Mathew Cole, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune. That an increase in extreme rainfall events was also forecast.

Until now, floods were rare in northeastern Bangladesh, while the state of Assam, famous for its tea cultivation, usually experienced floods later in the year during the normal monsoon season. Heavy rains in the region in just a few weeks this year have made the current flooding an “unprecedented” situation, said Anjal Prakash, research director at India’s Bharti Institute of Public Policy, who contributed to the UN-sponsored study. on global warming.

“It’s something we’ve never heard of and never seen,” he said.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a similar assessment on Wednesday.

“We have not faced such a crisis for a long time. Infrastructure should be created to deal with such calamities,” she said at a press conference in Dhaka. “Water coming from Meghalaya and Assam has affected the Sylhet region in northeast Bangladesh”, he said, adding that there is no quick relief for the country.

Hasina said the flood waters from the northeast would subside soon, but they would soon reach the southern region of the country on their way to the Bay of Bengal.

“We must be prepared to face it,” she said. “We live in an area where there is frequent flooding, which we have to keep in mind. We should prepare for it.”

A total of 42 people have died in Bangladesh since May 17, while the death toll in the floods in the state of Assam has risen to 78, while 17 others were killed in landslides, Indian officials said.

Hundreds of thousands are displaced and millions have been forced to scramble for temporary evacuation centers in the region.

Bangladesh, home to some 160 million, has historically contributed a fraction of the world’s emissions. Meanwhile, a decades-old deal for rich countries that have contributed more to global emissions, a deal to give $100 billion each year to poorer countries to adapt to climate change and switch to cleaner fuels, has not been completed. And the money that is given is spread very thin.

This means that countries such as Bangladesh – whose GDP grew from $6.2 billion in 1972 to $305 billion in 2019 – will have to redirect money to combat climate change, rather than use it to lift millions out of poverty. be spent on policies for the purpose of

“This is a problem created by the global industrial north. And we are paying the price because they have neglected their responsibility.

In Sylhet’s hardest-hit city, shop owner Mohammad Rasheed Ahmed has returned home with his families to see what can be saved from the floods. Walking through knee-deep water, he said he was worried about the water rising again. “The weather is changing… Another calamity can strike at any time.”

According to a 2015 analysis by the World Bank Institute, he is one of about 3.5 million Bangladeshis who face a similar situation when rivers flood every year. Bangladesh is considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and adversely affects the poor.

Poultry farmer Parul Akhtar holds his handicapped son to save him from flood waters in Sylhet. But he lost his only income – his hens – and all the other stuff.

“The chicken farm was the only way for me to survive. I have no other means of earning,” she said.

Mohamed Arfanuzzaman, a climate change expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said devastating floods like this year could have wide-ranging effects, with farmers losing their crops and getting caught in a cycle of debt not being able to go to school and children. The risk of disease increased.

He said that the current floods are causing a lot of trouble to the poor people.


Ghoshal reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Julhas Alam from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Victoria Milko in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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