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22 February 2012

Bangladesh: Communicating the catastrophic impact of climate change

Bangladesh: Communicating the catastrophic impact of climate change

by Asha Kurien

As terms such as 'climate justice' and 'environmental migrant' seep into the vocabulary we encounter frequently, the reality of climate change is made more visible. However, it is perhaps when we are made aware of the statistics surrounding this global phenomenon that we truly begin to realise its staggering effects.  

Joyanta Adhikari, a Christian from Bangladesh had the opportunity to raise caution at the General Synod meeting earlier this month that if the expected 1.5 metre rise in sea levels took place by 2050, 17 million Bangladeshis would be left homeless. This accounts for 15 per cent of the country's population.

Mr Adhikari, who is the executive director of Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB), said that all parts of his country are sensing the effects of climate change.

"In the south rising sea level has led to the intrusion of salt-water destroying rice paddy fields which are our main source of food," he said.

"In the north there is drought because of unpredictable and reduced rainfall and the middle of the country suffers from river erosion making river banks, where many people live, unstable and dangerous."

Bangladesh, a densely populated agrarian economy, has a landscape that is dominated by flood plains, making it particularly vulnerable to climate change. The frequent water logging that takes place threatens the livelihoods of a large number of people.

In a nation where Christians make up only 0.3 per cent of the population, CCDB plays a unique role. According to Joyanta, the organisation "works for all people and is an opportunity for us as Christians to not just help fellow believers but serve the rest of Bangladesh".

The charity is supported by various local and international organisations including Christian Aid in the UK, DanChurch Aid from Denmark, Bread for the World, Germany and Church World Service (CWS) in the United States.

CCDB addresses climate change by developing a salt-water tolerant variety of rice paddy, raising houses above sea level, and supplying energy efficient cooking stoves among numerous other initiatives.

Joyanta Adhikari with Archbishop of CanterburyAccording to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme): "Climate change has long-since ceased to be a scientific curiosity, and is no longer just one of many environmental and regulatory concerns…it is the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators. It is a growing crisis with economic, health and safety, food production, security, and other dimensions."

As Mr Adhikari emphasised in his presentation to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops: 

"We are all God's creation and we have to live responsibly to ensure God's world is not destroyed. We cannot solve the problem of climate change alone; we need the help of people in other countries to reduce pollution."