Experts urge government to address Sundarbans humanitarian crisis

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Kolkata, July 15 (ANI): India - In view of the massive humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of cyclone Aila in the Sunderbans, experts from the field of oceanography and social science, representatives from a local voluntary group and Greenpeace demanded immediate deployment of resources to attend to the humanitarian crisis in the region. They also called for the state and the center to take a long term perspective on protecting the people and ecology of the Sunderbans.

"The crisis that climate change can wreck on this region is immense and the government needs to address adaptation plans, but additionally must ensure that global warming doesn't cross the 2 degree tipping point that will devastate not only the Sunderbans, but Kolkata and Bangladesh too" said Dr Sudhir Chella Rajan, professor of Humanities at the IIT Chennai(1).

Last year, Greenpeace had alerted the Government and people of the subcontinent that the South Asian region could face a wave of migrants displaced by the impacts of climate change if global warming is not kept below 2 degree tipping point. Based on its report "Blue Alert - Climate Migrants in South Asia: Estimates and Solutions", authored by Dr Sudhir Chella Rajan, climate activists of the organization warned that this would include sea level rise, storm surges and drought associated with shrinking water supplies and monsoon variability.

The current situation with Aila reflects the concerns raised by the report. According to current estimates, lakhs have been rendered homeless and dependent on relief materials. With agricultural fields ruined by salt water ingress there is likely to be a shortage of locally grown food in the affected areas, and a loss of livelihood.

Delayed and insufficient monsoons have worsened the situation in the monocrop agriculture region. Thousands of people from this region have already sought refuge in Kolkata in search of food and employment, with many thousand more climate migrants likely.

Jiten Nandi, on behalf of 'With the people of Sunderbans' (2), a voluntary group who worked extensively on ground in the relief work, said that "while there was support in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, with time, it appears that the fate of the people in the Sunderbans is no longer of concern to the government. The region has never faced such disaster in the last 100 years and the situation is worsening in certain areas even as we speak. We not only need immediate relief but also a long term solution for this extremely vulnerable delta."

Dr. Sudhir Chella Rajan added that, "India should seek policy options that are proactive in terms of developing international strategies to reduce the risk of destructive climate change. This was extremely crucial this year as the international climate negotiations are going to try and broker a deal by December this year at Copenhagen. This deal will have far reaching implications for the people and the planet."

Dr. Sugata Hazra, Head of the Department of Oceanography, Jadavpur University explained the science of how sea level rise is going to worsen the situation in the Sunderbans region and focused on long term measures like building embankments and focusing on alternative livelihood to sustain the people and economy of the region.

Maitree Dasgupta, Climate Campaigner with Greenpeace said, "The Government of India's pre budget economic assessment notes that climate change has cost the country 2.5% of the GDP (3). This clearly goes to show that climate change is going to hit us on all fronts - our people, our environment and also our economy. We cannot afford to adapt to run away climate change. It is in India's national interest to see a strong deal emerge at Copenhagen. Towards this, India must announce its 8 National Missions that form part of the NAPCC and also put in place a national Renewable Energy Bill that will help us make the shift to clean energy away from dirty coal." (ANI)

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