Climate change a major threat to Bangladesh: Amitav Ghosh

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: May 28, 2015 23:52 IST

A large part of Bangladesh is likely to disappear due to the impact of climate change, according to noted writer Amitav Ghosh, who wants the international community to put together a plan for the future of the vulnerable country.

Identifying climate change and its impact as one of the key drivers of large scale migration in various parts of the world, Ghosh, who launched his new book, ‘Flood of Fire’, at the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival here on Wednesday, said “we are going to see huge upheavels of populations.”

The book is the third part of his 'Ibis' trilogy based on the nineteenth century opium wars between British India and China. Ghosh said at the launch event that the opium wars had been surprisingly “completely erased chapters” from accounts of Indian history.

“Bangladesh is now facing a situation in which a 1 metre of sea level rise will swamp something like half the country. I have seen entire villages disappear in the Sunderbans. Land that was once fertile has just been gobbled up by sea,” he said.

“Nobody who pays attention to the south asian sub-continent can be in any doubt how incredibly vulnerable south asia is and yet even in south asia people don’t seem to pay any attention to its broader impact. How does one account for the complete obliviousness that people have towards the situation?”

Ghosh, who last week signed a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina Wajed, seeking justice for three secular bloggers who were killed recently, said the country needed to be congratulated for “clinging on to a secular tradition despite all odds”.

He added: “A very large section of the Bangladesh population is opposed to religious rule. This is something we must acknowledge when we speak of Bangladesh, but the secular tradition is fiercely embattled. All secularist grounps are coming under intense pressure in Bangladesh and in some ways it is almost an all-out war.”

Responding to questions, he said freedom of expression was under threat not only in Bangladesh but all over the world, and the threats came not only from states but also non-state actors such as religious groups, corporations and also from the ‘conglomeratisation’ of the publishing industry.

On the recent large-scale migration of Rohingiya refugees, he said: “It strikes me as so bizarre that America is lecturing Indonesia and Malaysia to take in Rohingiya refugees. Why don’t they take them in? I find it so inappropriate…because all Asian countries have taken in enormous number of migrants, India already has.”

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