Will Bay of Bengal transform into a Bay of hope or fear?

By I. Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi, Dec. 13 (ANI): The world is becoming increasingly aware of the impact of climate change, and India is no exception.

During the last few weeks, Chennai and a large section of landmass on the east coast experienced incessant rains. Chennai faced a high level of deluge which it had not seen for the last one hundred years, and the dislocation in the city and the east coast has posed a challenge to the Government of India and the state government.

The tragedy is that while there has been heavy rain on the east coast, a large part of the country in Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka have been facing drought.

In Delhi and the national capital region of India, the extent of pollution has forced the government to close down the electricity generators which are based on coal and plan an introduction of restrictions on the plying of motor vehicles on an ‘odd-even’ formula, which will be difficult to implement.

At the global level, 195 nations are meeting in Paris to wrap up a climate saving deal. India has played the role of projecting the need for restrictions on the extravagant lifestyles of the developed countries and also in concluding a ‘compromise’ text.

The book by Sanjay Chaturvedi and Vijay Sakhuja tells us that we should not forget the Bay of Bengal is a semi-enclosed sea, to which all the littoral states of the Bay of Bengal are signatories.

It has been pointed out that the Bay of Bengal is a horse shoe shaped sea space which opens into the Indian Ocean in the south. Its waters wash the shores of the delta region of Bangladesh, east coast of India, western Indonesian archipelago, coast of peninsular Malaysia, east coast of Mynmar peninsula, east coast of Sri Lanka and the west coast of Thailand. The average depth of the Bay of Bengal 2,600 meters .

The number of fishermen involved in coastal and marine fishery in the beginning of this decade was 3.2 million. For India, the Bay of Bengal has emerged as an important source of energy.

A number of offshore oil and gas sites have been discovered off the river basins of Krishna Godavari delta and the Mahanadi basin of the Orissa coast, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and east Sri Lankan coast. Experts believe that Bangladesh and Myanmar have huge off-shore oil and gas reserves.

We have experienced that the Bay of Bengal region , which falls under the monsoon belt , experiences depressions, seasonal storm surges, cyclones and other natural disasters, like the December 2004 Tsunami. It is also affected by the melting of the Himalayan glacier. An estimate suggests that in the last 100 years, 508 cyclones of varying intensities have originated in the Bay of Bengal.

The book has a detailed discussion of the impact of climate change on the military and how the littoral states have been trying to adapt themselves to climate change.

An Inter-Governmental organisation on coastal fisheries and an agency under the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation are also engaged in addressing the problem of fisheries.

Their agenda includes a number of programmes and activities that support sustainable development and management of coast fisheries, fisheries management, training and information exchange and improving the quality of life and increasing the livelihood opportunities of small scale fishermen.

The SAARC and the ASEAN also have taken initiatives to meet the challenge of climate change.

The book concludes by pointing out that the Bay of Bengal, its littoral states and communities are at the crossroads, where the two equally plausible, not necessarily mutually exclusive futures, appear to be possible.

One path leads to a future which is largely dictated by social economic insecurities which will transform it into a ‘Bay of Fear’.

The second path is marked by optimism and which promotes regional cooperation, which takes a proactive, preemptive and humane approach and which will help the Bay of Bengal to evolve as a ‘Bay of Hope’.

Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi, who is a scholar, who has been interacting with academic institutions of the countries of the region and a visiting speaker at the National Defence College, New Delhi and Dr Vijay Sakhuja, the Director of the National Maritime Foundation, and a former India Navy Officer, have authored this publication, which is timely .

It projects the impact of climate change in the Bay of Bengal region, which can evolve as geographies of ‘Fear or Hope’. One hopes it will be of hope.

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. He can be reached on his e-mail raoramamohan@hotmail.com .

Book Review: Climate Change and the Bay of Bengal, by Sanjay Chaturvedi and Vijay Sakhuja. Pp 239. Pentagon Press. Rs. 995′-(ANI)

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