Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Rising Tide

From the New York Times:
The Sundarbans are among the world’s largest collection of river delta islands. In geological terms they are young and still under formation, cut by an intricate network of streams and tributaries that straddle the border between India and Bangladesh. Ever since the British settled them 150 years ago in pursuit of timber, the mangroves have been steadily depleted — half of the islands have lost their forest cover — and the population has grown.

Today the rising sea and destruction of forests threaten the Sundarbans’ most storied inhabitant, the royal Bengal tiger, which drinks these salty waters and has an appetite for human flesh. Environmental degradation also threatens the unsung human residents: four million people live here on the Indian side of the border alone.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that global warming, spurred by the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, could raise the ocean’s surface as much as 23 inches by 2100. [According to the panel’s latest report, released in early April, the ecology and people of this river delta system are among the most vulnerable in the world.]

It hardly seems to matter that Mr. Mandal and his neighbors — farmers and fishermen — are far too poor to produce much in the way of carbon emissions. They feel the assault already.


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