After his home slipped into the powerful currents of the Meghna River four years ago, Monoranjab Dus came looking for new land along this waterlogged stretch of coastline slowly emerging from the sea.
Bangladesh, home to 150 million, is the seventh most populous country in the world, although it's only about the size of Louisiana. Most of Bangladesh is less than 40 feet above sea level. For many months each year more than ten percent of the country's surface area is water. In 1988, and again in 1998, more than half of the country was flooded. With sea level expected to rise up to three feet in this century, an additional ten to twenty percent of Bangladesh could be permanently lost, displacing millions of people and destroying farmlands and fresh water supplies.
As global warming melts the world's ice, and heats the oceans, sea levels are on the rise. Although it may take decades for some coastal areas to begin to feel the effects, few places on Earth are as threatened right now as the low-lying coastlines off the vast Bay of Bengal, where the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra Rivers meet the Indian Ocean.
Some of the countries most at risk from climate change are low-lying nations. And chief among them is the South Asian country of Bangladesh. Rising seas threaten to inundate this already disaster-prone land. But Bangladesh is experimenting with new ways to protect itself. One possible solution uses floods to prevent floods. It’s an idea that was forced on the government in a revolt by desperate farmers. Reporter Daniel Grossman has our story.
Students at the Pulitzer Center's Campus Consortium member schools were eligible to apply for reporting fellowships of up to $2,000 each and the opportunity to work with the Pulitzer Center staff on an international reporting project. The first three 2009 student fellows have completed their reporting:
Climate change is front page news in Bangladesh on a near-daily basis, and the English-language newspaper The Daily Star is averaging two to three articles per day on the subject. As Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina traveled to Geneva this week to attend the World Climate Conference-3, coverage has focused on her trip. But there is also a sense in Bangladesh that climate change is putting the country on the international map, so to speak, and Bangladeshis are very much interested in getting that recognition.
Thursday, at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, Bangladesh's prime minister called for assistance from the international community to help the country adapt to the impacts of climate change, which, she said, could necessitate the relocation of 20 million Bangladeshis by 2050.
Stine Eckert, Pulitzer Student Fellow
Stine Eckert sums up the situation of women in Bangladesh after two weeks of interviews in Bangladesh: While a shift in the generation of current adult women and the chances their daughters will have seems to occur, some professional jobs such as journalism still remain macho realm.
Bangladesh is a massive river delta, and river erosion is taking more than 100 sq. km. of land per year. According to local officials, it displaces more than 100,000 riverside residents per year, and the pace is accelerating, fed by melting glaciers and monsoons upstream. We visited the massive Jamuna River near Sirajganj in the northwest corner of the country and saw where large chunks of the dike and roadway had collapsed just a few weeks earlier.
It is monsoon season in Bangladesh, making the delicate balance between water and land more tenuous than ever. It was raining heavily when we disembarked from the ferry on Bhola Island and it continued to rain for much of the day. South of Dhaka some 205 km. (or 11 hours by ferry), Bhola is caught between the rising saltwater of the Bay of Bengal to the south and the ominous churning of the Meghna River to the east.