Saturday, 13 November 2021

Climate Crisis: Bangladesh May Drown, Pakistan May Face Severe Droughts

An Indian friend of mine, Sri Sagar Dhara, who is attending the COP 26 meeting, has sent a report from Glasgow on the prospects for Bangladesh and Pakistan in the year 2100. Being a South Asian (Indian) myself, I read it with great interest, which caused the following thoughts to occur in my mind.

    Please read the highly interesting article of Sagar first. Link

Then my comments.

Saral’s Comments

I thank Sagar Dhara for this article focusing attention, unusually, on Bangladesh and Pakistan, two of India’s “dear” neighbors, who after all are no small islands in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. How dear they are to us has been demonstrated by the recent NRC exercise in Assam and the three wars at India’s Western front. The description of the plight of the people of Bangladesh and Pakistan in the near future is, I hope, realistic, coming as they do from knowledgeable people from the two countries. But Sagar’s conclusion? Is it at all realistic? And his exhortation to us Indians? What chance does it have of being accepted?

Empty Idealism or Down-to-Earth Realism

Sagar writes: “…. should India help? As a country that believes in vasudaiva kutumbakam (the whole world is a family), of course India should help … .” “Vasudaiva kutumbakam” is a noble, but, sorry to say, empty ideal. I have heard/read it as a slogan a few times in the speeches and writings generated by outwardly idealist NGO activists. The slogan itself was perhaps coined by some sage in ancient India some three thousand years ago. But today, it is a far cry from the reality. I do not know when “India” ever believed in this ideal.
    In the Christian Western world, I have more often heard the cynical saying: “Everybody for himself and God for all”. That is also roughly the conclusion of human ethologists on the reality of human nature. The current treatment meted out to illegal migrants at the Polish-Belarussian border corroborates this.
    Empty idealism devoid of all realism is the bane of NGO welfare activities. Two years ago, at a big gathering of Fridays for Future, I heard a speech by a young woman who is active in the efforts to save illegal African migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and help them reach the shores of Europe and enjoy a better life there. She asserted inter alia “every human being has a right to choose the country where (s)he wants to live.” I do not know where other than in her fertile imagination this right has been codified. But I know that her activities are promoting fascism in Europe as a reaction.
    A German politician, the then President of the state, whose traditional task it is to give idealist speeches in high-flown language, said in 2015 or 2016, at the height of the illegal migrants crisis in Germany, something like this: “Our hearts are very big, but our capacity is limited”, whereby he stretched his arms on two sides to make the sign of embracing people. He meant Germany’s capacity to accept immigrants.

No Solution ?

Sagar writes, the people of these two countries would suffer for “no fault of theirs”. That is roughly true. But not entirely. Nobody else is to blame other than those Bangaldeshis (and West-Bengalis) who in the past went farther and farther south, clear cut parts of the Sunderbans and settled down on the very low-lying delta areas. Such flood-prone and regularly cyclone-ravaged low lying areas should not have been inhabited at all in the first place.
    I understand, population pressure did not leave many ordinary poor people any other choice. But surely, it is not the Western imperialists that created the population pressure in Bangladesh (and West Bengal). Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971 when its population amounted to 65.5 million. Today, i.e. in 2020 figures, it stands at 164.7 million. In the same period, Pakistan’s population rose from 59.73 to 220.9 million (Source: Internet, Google). The leadership of these countries, usually highly educated and well-informed, could have done something at least in this area of policy, which has been fully under their control. If they had, the suffering today would have been much less.
    Sagar reports: a principal scientific officer from Pakistan, when asked, “Does Pakistan have a solution?”, replied “No”. An apparently rich farmer from Bangladesh, who, mind you, has the financial means to travel to Glasgow and stay there for a few days, suggested the solution that India should accept climate refugees from Bangladesh. This is surprising, capitulation!
    It is true that, climate change being a global problem, Bangladesh and Pakistan cannot tackle all their climate change related problems on their own. But nor can India do that. And in the future, India too will require help from the countries to tackle climate change impacts on its territory.
    So can anything be done at all? At least to mitigate the bad effects of climate change, if not to solve the whole problem? I think yes. World Bank sources say that at present, the population growth rates of the three countries are as follows: Bangladesh - 1%, Pakistan - 2%, India - 1%. That means, at current rates, every year, the population of Bangladesh is growing by 1.64 mil., that of Pakistan by 2.29 mil., and that of India by 13.8 mil. Obviously, in this area at least, these countries could do much more to take off the pressure. This is the easiest thing to do. Other things are much more difficult. For, as I formulated two-three years ago as an impossibility theorem:

“It is impossible to fulfill the continuously growing demands, wishes, aspirations and ambitions (100 per cent renewables for instance) of a continuously growing world population while our resource base is continuously dwindling and the ability of nature to absorb man-made pollution is continuously diminishing. It is a lunatic idea that in a finite world infinite growth is possible.”

    Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then PM of India, said already some 10 years ago, he had the most difficult task of creating 10 million new jobs every year. How can then the present-day government create jobs in India also for the climate refugees of Bangladesh and Pakistan?

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