By boat in Bangladesh
In less than 50 years time the rise in sea level could wipe out the area of Bangladesh bigger than Scotland in size displacing 17-20 millions of people. At least this is what we are led to believe by the Geneva-based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
And going by their new status of the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, we simply can't afford to take the credibility of their report less seriously.
The IPCC's predictions are chilling and I'm not surprised that the BBC World Service’s Bengali output wasted no time in weaving a radical editorial plan around this subject. Nazes Afroz (executive editor, South Asia region of World Service) approached me a couple of months ago and enquired if the BBC Asian Network too would be interested in joining hands on a project that would involve a boat journey through the rivers of Bangladesh. I was never going to say ‘no’ to this tempting offer largely for two, or should I say three, reasons.
First, I was pleased to know that the Asian Network will only have to pay towards their travel costs if we decided to send a team on the boat. The rest, including the expenses on accommodation and the use of technical equipments such as the ISDN lines and satellite phones to broadcast live shows will be taken care of by the organisers.
It was very comforting because the BBC Asian Network, as most of you would know, isn't a radio network awash with cash and the recent cuts in the news department across the BBC hasn't done any good towards our future ambitions to cover big news. Though, personally I've always believed that despite being a music radio station we ought to take the complete ownership of every big South Asian news story.
Yes, we should be bigging up Bollywood because it's hugely popular amongst the young British Asians. We must also work hard towards establishing our identity as a national radio station, which is a home to the British Asian music. But, we shouldn't also lose sight of our commitments towards covering big news especially from South Asia.
So, I was explaining the reasons why I found Nazes' offer irresistible. This came at a time when the Asian Network is busy finding ways to make inroads into the huge British Bangladeshi population mainly in the Brick Lane area of London. As the BBC Asian Network's languages editor, I've long been on the look-out for any editorial opportunity that will enable us to maximise our reach in London. And the boat show on climate change provided me a perfect excuse to reach this community in east London.
This is because like any other ethnic minorities, the Bangladeshi community in Britain is closely connected to their roots and destruction in their homeland is bound to affect their lives here as well.
The third and the most important reason being the subject itself. It's not just any climate change story that you often see scientists drumming home the message about. If the impact is anything close to what the IPCC's predictions suggest, then we're in for a great ecological disaster. As well as destroying the lives of nearly 20 million people, the rise in sea level at the Bay of Bengal by a metre would mean losing the whole of Sundarbans - the largest mangrove forest in the world and the natural habitat for Royal Bengal Tigers.
I think James Sales, who I know from my World Service days, has done a great job by single-handedly taking this project to fruition. I'm told that it was James who first mooted the idea of this boat show to create awareness on climate change amongst the poverty stricken Bangladeshis.
As I write the BBC-branded boat MV Aboshor is busy cruising along the various rivers of Bangladesh. My team consisting of Gagan Grewal (presenter), Rayhan Rahman (broadcast assistant) and yours truly will fly out to Dhaka next Tuesday to do a day-long special live programme from the boat on November 16.
Sceptics may continue to question the reality of climate change, but I'm glad that what started as a casual conversation in the corridors of Bush house (home to World Service) has now become a massive pan-BBC project. I'm sure it will go a long way in combating the threat posed by the climate change in the Indian sub-continent.