The sea is rising due to climate change, rising so high that it is projected that it will submerge low-lying coastal areas the world over between 2050 and 2100, making coastal villages disappear or become unliveable.
Bangladesh is one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world yet has one of the highest populations - 164 million, more than Russia. That is now, but there is a population increase anticipated which will cause a possible further beating to the country in combination with coastal flooding. Multi-foot rises in sea levels are expected, drowning the coastal regions and driving 10-30 million people further inland into less space. The other option for the people of the coastal region is to flee as climate change refugees, a group that is expected to top 250 million worldwide in poor and low-lying coastal areas.
Millions of people already live in an area that makes it literally impossible to ever be alone for more than a minute or two. Children sleep on the dividers between streets, cars whizzing by them. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has 15 million people all looking for space in which to live, work and sleep, with spare corners taken up by the homeless. Noise and clatter is a way of life, silence and quiet moments as rare as the land for the people to work on is lacking. The sea is coming to take away what little there is, climate change is raising the sea levels in coastal regions, and islands called chars disappear and rise up within hours or days. Yet Bangladesh is adapting even now.
The people and government have had a heads-up on what climate change and rising sea levels can do, both due to cyclones and the change in sea levels already happening. Numerous adaptations have been made to try and weather the various storms, both literal and metaphorical, including changing rice fields into shrimp farms.
Muhammad Hayat Ali, a 40-year-old farmer, was quoted in National Geographic as saying: "In previous times this land was juicy, all rice fields. But now the weather has changed-summer is longer and hotter than it used to be, and the rains aren't coming when they should. The rivers are saltier than before, and any water we get from the ground is too salty to grow rice. So now I'm raising shrimps in these ponds and growing my vegetables on the embankments around them."
Not long ago this would have been considered unthinkable, but now it is almost the norm. Brine shrimp and crabs are sold overseas for the Chinese market, the submerged rice paddies given another use for the people who need the land to eke out an existence even as it changes beyond recognition.
Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries, but in many ways one of the best able to adapt for the coming storm, as it already experiences much of the ocean's effects, and the people are finding ways around them. That does not mean, however, that it will be able to handle the large loss of land projected in its most populated cities - the ones that most go to for shelter and help during cyclones and other devastating events - or the influx of people who no longer have villages or homes.
Oceans rising due to global warming and the melting glaciers of the Arctic and Antarctic are creating a crisis few in the West think of over their lattes and cappuccinos. It is vital that plans be put in place now to deal with the submerging coastal lands. Whole villages and ecosystems will be wiped out without proper planning, and while Bangladesh is one example of what will happen in a Third World country, Miami and Louisiana won't get away without suffering effects either.
(Source: National Geographic Magazine)