World: Global Warming Claims Tropical Island
By Geoffrey Lean
26 December 2006
seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited
island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island,
in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra
rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the
most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists
has started coming true.
As the seas continue to swell,
they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall
Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt,
and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Eight years ago, as exclusively
reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands
- in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves.
The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have
been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea.
The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.
It has been officially recorded
in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at Calcutta's Jadavpur
University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned
of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island,
Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.
Two-thirds of nearby populated
island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra,
director of the university's School of Oceanographic Studies, says "it
is only a matter of some years" before it is swallowed up too.
Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen "vanishing islands" in
India's part of the delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in danger.
Until now the Carteret Islands
off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the first populated ones to
disappear, in about eight years' time, but Lohachara has beaten them
to the dubious distinction.
Human cost of global warming:
Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people homeless
Refugees from the vanished
Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to
Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea.
In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being
submerged by the rising seas.
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited
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