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Bangladesh - On the climate change frontline

Victims of this year's monsoon flooding take shelter in Keraniganj near the capital, Dhaka. Photo credit: Reuters
Victims of this year's monsoon flooding take shelter in Keraniganj near the capital, Dhaka.

Bangladesh - On the climate change frontline


Bangladesh's unique topography accounts for its amazing biodiversity - it also places it at enormous risk from the changes wrought by global warming, as James Sales reports

Sandwiched between the foothills of the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh may offer the rest of the world an insight into the kind of weather and associated chaos we could all be facing. The effects and consequences to the planet of global warming - alarming predictions set out in the recent Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report - are already beginning to make their mark on the country.

Bangladesh's vulnerability
• A one meter rise in sea level would affect 17m people and 15% of the land

• Bangladesh is traversed by around 700 waterways
Home to a population of over 140m people, the country is surrounded by water and criss-crossed by rivers. So much so that, when viewed from above, it appears to be a collection of inter-connected islands.

For Bangladeshis this abundance of water has been both a blessing and a curse. It has brought with it silts rich in nutrients, providing a rich environment for the many subsistence farmers. However, with these benefits come hazards. In August 8m people lost their homes in flooding that also severely affected neighbouring Nepal and India.

Massive displacement predicted

Disturbingly, the situation doesn't look set to improve as it would appear Bangladesh may yet have to face up to its greatest challenge. With increased glacial melting in the Himalayas leading to an upsurge of flooding in the north and the prospect of rising sea levels potentially consuming a quarter of the country in the south, the future appears bleak. The most recent IPCC report predicts the displacement of 17-20m Bangladeshis by 2050.

Aside from the human tragedy, the sea level rise will also consume the largest mangrove forest on earth
Aside from the human tragedy, the sea level rise will also consume the Sunderbans, the largest mangrove forest on earth. This is an area of amazing bio-diversity, a World Heritage site and home to, among other species, the legendary Bengal tiger.

The perspective from the water

While the world's environmental lumin-aries gather in Valencia for the IPCC
synthesis report, the BBC is taking the issues to the people of Bangladesh, and the only real way to do that is on the water. Throughout November, the BBC World Service will be covering several hundred kilometres along the country's river systems to gain a unique perspective from people who will be at the frontline of the threat posed by climate change.

The BBC Bengali service, which reaches an estimated 16.9m people, is planning a number of special programmes connecting with its audiences in rural areas, focusing on climate change and environmental issues already affecting them.

In conjunction with the BBC World Service Trust they will also be conducting a number of Interactive discussion programmes, Sanglap, from the vessel which will be televised on 'Channel i' in Bangladesh as well as broadcast on radio and the internet.

BBC World Service English and the wider BBC will also feature interviews with prominent climate change experts, as well as producing a range of news, documentaries, features and interactive programmes from the vessel throughout the season.

James Sales
James Sales is Project Manager for the BBC Bangladesh River Show - Climate Change Special. He joined the BBC World Service in 2001, working in the Asia Pacific region.
BBC World Service Trust, Sanglap

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