In Brief

Ghoramara: the Indian island disappearing into the sea

Rising sea levels are threatening residents’ homes but most can’t afford to evacuate

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Residents living on India’s Ghoramara Island are calling on their government to help them relocate, after losing more than half of their lands to rising sea levels caused by global warming.

The 1.8 sq mile island is located in the Sundarbans Delta of the Bay of Bengal. The delta is made up of 54 low-lying islands, many of which are being destroyed because of climate change. Another Sundarbans island, Lohachara, has already been completely washed away because of the rising tides, turning its residents into “environmental refugees”, and Ghoramara islanders fear they could be next.

“If a tsunami or a big cyclone hits this island we will be finished,” island elder Sanjib Sagar told the Economic Times.#

Most islanders are farmers, cultivating the mangrove trees, but the frequent flooding has damaged not only people’s homes, but the farmland they depend on for a living. The population on the island has decreased from 7,000 to 4,800 over the last decade. 

Many of those who remain say they are willing to evacuate, but the cost of fleeing and beginning a new life on the mainland is prohibitively expensive. 

“If government gives rehabilitation I will leave,” Ghoramara resident Sheikh Aftab Uddin told Reuters. He estimated that half of the island is prepared to leave, but stressed that islanders would need the government to provide housing because of its high cost.

According to a NASA study, global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, driven by increased melting in Greenland and Antarctica. If current trends continue, by 2100 the world’s seas could have swelled by twice the projected level.

Rising seas now threaten entire nations, including the Maldives and the Marshall Islands, as well as major coastal cities around the world who face the prospect of disappearing underwater. 

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