Inhabitants of the Sundarbans delta region face an uncertain future. Photo by Frances Voon via Flickr.
A nearly three-decade-old political dispute in the Bay of Bengal seems to have finally been resolved, though likely not in the way any of the parties involved would have preferred: A tiny island territory claimed by both India and Bangladesh has vanished under rising seas.Sea levels in the part of the bay formerly home to New Moore Island or South Talpatti Island, depending on who you were talking to, "have risen much faster over the past decade than they had done in the previous 15 years," Professor Sugata Hazra of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, India, told the BBC.
Inhabited Islands in Sundarbans Delta May Be Next
Though no one lived on the disputed, and newly disappeared, island, Professor Hazra predicts that inhabited islands in the Sundarbans delta region will also be submerged over the next decade, creating a new group of climate refugees.
Like other islands in the area, New Moore, or South Talpatti, was one of the "unstable creations of the Brahmaputra river delta," first emerging on satellite images in 1974 and being claimed by India seven years later, the Christian Science Monitor reported. "The island has become central to a broader maritime dispute" between India and Bangladesh, the paper added, characterizing its disappearance as "a rare instance where suspected climate change may contribute to the easing of a conflict":
Experts have long warned that climate change would exacerbate such conflicts over territory and natural resources. Scenarios have included expanding deserts on tribally disputed African lands, dwindling glacial runoff in rivers shared by India and Pakistan, and island refugees from places like the Maldives demanding a new homeland.
"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," Professor Hazra told the BBC. Not that that's a "solution" we'd want to see replicated anywhere else.
More about islands and climate change:
Tuvalu Negotiator Delivers a Tear-Jerking Call for the Toughest Climate Treaty at Copenhagen
Least Developed Countries Join Pacific Islands in Saying Rich Nations' Climate Change Commitments Inadequate
First Official Climate Change Refugees Evacuate Their Island Homes for Good
Get Out Now! 8 Places Soon to be Uninhabitable
PBS Airs Must-See Episode about Climate Change and Kiribati: 'Paradise Lost'
Small Island Nations 'Can Only Do So Much' To Impede Climate Change