From: Reuters
Published November 28, 2007 08:00 AM

Climate change to take heavy toll on Bangladesh: U.N.

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) - Disaster-prone Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which could worsen water scarcity and force mass displacement, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The U.N. Development Programme in its latest report warned that climate change will hit the world's poorest countries by breaking down agricultural systems, worsening water scarcity, increasing risks of diseases and triggering mass displacement due to recurring floods and storms.

The report said more than 70 million Bangladeshis, 22 million Vietnamese, and 6 million Egyptians could be affected by global warming-related flooding.

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"The near-term vulnerabilities are not concentrated in lower Manhattan and London, but in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh and drought-prone parts of sub-Saharan Africa," said Kevin Watkins, the lead author of the Human Development Report.

Dhaka has proposed setting up of an International Centre for Adaptation to study countries most at risk from climate change, C.S.Karim, a government adviser said.

British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdury said on Wednesday his government welcomed the proposal, and plans to organize a conference in Dhaka early next year on climate change.

Bangladesh has suffered a double blow in the last few months, first from devastating floods in July and then two weeks ago when the worst cyclone since 1991 killed some 3,500 people and displaced millions.

"Bangladesh faces several vulnerabilities from climate change during this century," K.B. Sajjadur Rasheed, a Bangladeshi environment specialist, told Reuters.

"The sea-level rise of even by 40 cm (16 inches) in the Bay of Bengal would submerge 11 percent of the country's land area in the coastal zone, displacing 7 to 10 million people."

Secondly, the frequency, extent, depth and duration of floods could increase because of more monsoon rains triggered by climate change, he said.

That would cause a significant decrease in crops, and food security.

This century should also see the flow of water decreasing in the Ganges, one of the major river systems in riverine Bangladesh, due to glacial retreat from global warming, he said.

It would force millions to seek shelter further inland in the densely populated country of more than 140 million people.

"The implication is that, while Bangladesh could be subjected to increased flooding in the next two to four decades, the country could face drought-like conditions from low flows in the rivers during the latter half of the century," Rasheed said.

(Additional reporting by Masud Karim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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