Climate change a factor in ‘unprecedented’ South Asia floods

Sylhet, Bangladesh (AP) – Climate change is a factor behind erratic and early rains that triggered unprecedented floods in Bangladesh and northeast India, killing dozens and leaving millions of lives miserable, scientists say .

Although the region is no stranger to flooding, it usually occurs later in the year when the monsoon rains are well underway.

This year’s torrential rains ravaged the region in early March. It may take longer to determine the extent to which climate change played a role in flooding, but scientists say it has made the monsoon – a seasonal change in weather usually associated with heavy rains – last decades. is more variable. This means that most of the rain that occurs in a year is coming in a span of weeks.

The northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya received nearly three times its June average rainfall in the first three weeks of the month, and neighboring Assam received twice its monthly average in the same period. Several rivers, including one of the largest rivers in Asia, flow downstream from both states, joining the Bay of Bengal at a lower level in Bangladesh, a densely populated delta nation.

With more rain predicted for the next five days, Bangladesh’s Flood Forecast and Warning Center warned on Tuesday that water levels in the country’s northern regions will remain dangerously high.

Important to the agricultural economies of India and Bangladesh, the monsoon pattern has been changing since the 1950s, with prolonged dry seasons accompanied by heavy rains, said Roxy Mathew Cole, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune. That an increase in extreme rainfall events was also forecast.

Until now, floods were rare in north-western Bangladesh, while the state of Assam, famous for its tea cultivation, usually experienced floods later in the year during the normal monsoon season. Heavy rains in the region in just a few weeks this year have made the current flooding an “unprecedented” situation, said Anjal Prakash, research director at India’s Bharti Institute of Public Policy, who contributed to the UN-sponsored study. on global warming.

“It’s something we’ve never heard of and never seen,” he said.

A total of 36 people have died in Bangladesh since May 17, while the death toll in the floods in the state of Assam has risen to 78, while 17 others were killed in landslides, Indian officials said.

Hundreds of thousands are displaced and millions have been forced to scramble for temporary evacuation centers in the region.

Some, such as Mohammed Rashiq Ahmed, a shop owner in Sylhet, the hardest-hit city of northeastern Bangladesh, have returned home concerned with their families to see what can be saved. Walking through knee-deep water, he said he was worried about the flood waters rising again. “The weather is changing..any other calamity can strike at any time.”

According to a 2015 analysis by the World Bank Institute, he is one of about 3.5 million Bangladeshis who face a similar situation when rivers flood every year.

The country with a population of 160 million is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change and the poor are disproportionately affected.

Mohamed Arfanuzzaman, a climate change expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said devastating floods like this year could have wide-ranging effects, with farmers losing their crops and getting caught in a cycle of debt not being able to go to school and children. The risk of disease increased.

He said that the current floods are causing a lot of trouble to the poor people.

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Ghoshal reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Julhas Alam from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Victoria Milko in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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