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Thursday, 27 March 2008

South Asian people are at risk if global warming uncheckedAFP

Rising seas and water shortages could displace 125 million people in South Asia by the end of the century if global warming goes unchecked, a new Greenpeace study said Wednesday.

"If greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow under the business-as-usual scenario as projected... the South Asian region could face a wave of migrants," said the report's author Sudhir Chella Rajan, a leading Indian climate change expert.

The 125 million people affected would be those living along the coasts of India and Bangladesh, the environmental group said in the report on the Greenpeace website on Wednesday.

"More than 120 million people from India and Bangladesh alone will become homeless by the end of this century," the report says.

It estimates that 75 million people from Bangladesh will lose their homes.

Around 75 million people from low-lying Bangladesh would migrate to India, warned the report entitled "Blue Alert -- Climate Migrants in South Asia."

The displacement would be caused "by the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, and droughts associated with shrinking water supplies and changes to the monsoon season," said Rajan, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai.

The UN Development Programme has also warned that climate change would hit the world's poorest countries, raising risks of disease, destruction of traditional livelihoods and leading to huge population movements.

The report says that the number of people who could be affected by climate change is almost 10 times greater than the number of people who migrated during and after the partition of India in 1947.

"There is already plenty of evidence to suggest that the average global temperature rise we have already experienced is associated with substantial changes in weather patterns over recent decades," the Greenpeace report says.

The study says that "if global temperatures rise by about 4-5C in the course of the century - as they are projected to - the South Asian region could face a wave of migrants displaced by the impact of climate change".

"This isn't going to happen gradually. What we are going to see is a series of coastal surges, you will see inundation, salt water intrusion - which will cause lots of harm and devastate a lot of these infrastructures," said Dr Rajan.

According to the Greenpeace report, major population movement from the coastal cities to other large urban centres like Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad will take place.

"We cannot wait for the inevitable to happen and hope to adapt to it," Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace's climate and energy campaigner in India, said in a statement.

Within the next 50 years, there could be more heat waves, higher summer temperatures and fewer cold winters in the at-risk region, the report warned.
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