Global warming: islands beginning to disappear


Richard Moore

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Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island

For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas. 
Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean reports

Published: 24 December 2006

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an 
inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara 
island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra 
rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most 
apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started 
coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the 
Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from 
Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first
uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath
the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have
been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The 
disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.

It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by 
researchers at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the 
researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited 
neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from 
satellite pictures.

Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently 
inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university's School of Oceanographic
Studies, says "it is only a matter of some years" before it is swallowed up too.
Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen "vanishing islands" in India's part of the 
delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in danger.

Until now the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the 
first populated ones to disappear, in about eight years' time, but Lohachara has
beaten them to the dubious distinction.

Human cost of global warming: Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people homeless

Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara 
island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land 
to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of 
being submerged by the rising seas.

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