Celebrated author and climate change activist Amitav Ghosh has appreciated Bangladesh's action to fight climate change challenges though he worries for his native West Bengal.
“In fact, Bangladesh has become a global leader in disseminating information in creating climate change resilience programmes. There are so many innovations,” Ghosh told The Times of India during a brief trip to his home in south Kolkata on Sunday.
Bangladesh has successfully addressed climate change issues by disseminating information, sending out regular alerts and bulletins, he said.
“In collaboration with a Dutch team, they created oyster beds around their islands to absorb the impact of sea-level rise. Bangladesh managed to ban single-use plastic successfully many years ago. Even the USA could not come close to banning single-use plastic,” the author said.
Ghosh visits the Sundarbans regularly and has researched the area for his highly acclaimed novel "The Hungry Tide".
He won India's top literary award Jnanpith and has been nominated for Booker and Arthur Clarke awards for his novels "Sea Of Poppies" and "Glass Palace".
Ghosh, who has been travelling to the Sunderbans for the last 20 years, found a lot of facilities have reached the remotest parts.
“A lot of embankments were rebuilt and a lot of reinforcements happened.” But, he believes, embankment is not a solution to the problem of accelerated pace of climate change there. “Embankments cannot hold out against sea-level rise, nor can they hold out against storm surge,” he said.
The people of Sunderbans have ways to cope with the climate crisis, he pointed out. “Many families have kept a small plot in the interior, some sort of safe haven. Many others have migrated to the west coast. Many people of Sunderbans now work in Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. It is an enormous demographic shift,” he said.
Climate change is a global problem and the global system of governance has to address it. Ghosh felt the geopolitics of climate change is the biggest obstacle to a definite, collective global response to climate change issues.
“In Paris, agreement-rich countries pledged $100 billion for the climate resilience fund, not even a 10th of this was delivered, and rich countries boosted their defence expenditure by $1.2 trillion. So, behind the scenes, they are preparing for war. It became clearer with the Ukraine situation,” Ghosh said.
But Ghosh said he was seriously worried for his native Kolkata where his mother and sister continue to live.
"Kolkata is threatened for multiple reasons. A large part of the city is below sea level and embankments have protected the city for a very long time," he said, adding he was seriously worried over UN reports predicting 'catastrophic flooding' in southern Kolkata close to the Sundarbans.
He said West Bengal has built a lot of embankments and reinforced old ones in its part of the Sundarbans.
But Ghosh says embankments are not the solution because they cannot hold out against sea-level rise or against storm surges.