London, September 8 (ANI): A new research has determined that up to 20 million people in low-lying Bangladesh are at risk from rising sea levels in the coming decades.
According to a report by BBC News, the predictions come from the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (Cegis) in Bangladesh.
Scientists predict that salty water could reach far inland, making it hard to cultivate staple foods like rice.
The research comes as the government appeals for 5 billion dollars over five years to combat climate change.
It suggests a surprisingly small area of land will be permanently lost to the waters, but notes that vast tracts in the south-west could be inundated every monsoon season.
Ahmadul Hassan, a senior scientist at Cegis, told the BBC that the intrusion of salt water would disrupt rice production in one of Bangladesh's poorest regions.
"These are very poor people, and vulnerable. For four months, they'll have nowhere to work. So, people will migrate to the cities for jobs, because of the uncomfortable situation with sea level rise," he said.
"We are talking about 20 million people," he added.
According to the researchers, data from 11 Bangladeshi monitoring stations shows an average sea-level rise of 5mm per year over the last 30 years, with climate models forecasting further rises.
Of Bangladesh's total rice production, nearly half is so-called "monsoon" rice and much of that is grown in the areas most vulnerable to flooding.
In an interview with BBC News, Bangladesh's Minister of Disaster Management, Dr Muhammed Abdur Razzaque, said he wanted sea defences similar to those in Holland.
"We have to have new designs for embankments and we have to raise their height," he said. "We are expecting 5 bn dollars over the next five years in support from the international community," he added.
Bangladesh is among a number of developing countries campaigning for finance to help adapt to the effects of climate change.
There are hopes that the richest nations will agree to massive funding at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
Abdul Khaleque, who is managing Oxfam's emergency response in Satkhira region, where more than 20,000 people lost their homes on Gabura Island, said, "This place is very near to the sea and we know climate change is causing sea levels to rise."
"If the situation gets worse then these people cannot go back to their villages, so permanent arrangements to improve these embankments need to be made," he added. (ANI)