Climate change a factor in ‘unprecedented’ floods in South Asia

SILHETT, Bangladesh (AP) — Climate change is a factor in erratic and early rain, scientists say unprecedented flood In Bangladesh and northeast India, dozens of people have died and millions have lived miserably.

Although the area is not unfamiliar floodit usually occurs later in the year when the monsoon rains are well underway.

This year’s heavy rains hit the region as early as March. Determining the extent of climate change’s impact on flooding may take longer, but scientists say it has made monsoons — a seasonal weather change often associated with heavy rainfall — more intense over the past few decades, scientists say. changeable. That means most of the rain expected to fall in a year will arrive within a few weeks.

India’s northeastern state of Meghalaya received nearly three times its June average rainfall in the first three weeks of the month alone, while neighbouring Assam received double the monthly average over the same period. Several rivers, including one of the largest in Asia, flow downstream from the two states into the low-lying Bay of Bengal, a densely populated delta country.

With more rain expected over the next five days, the Bangladesh Flood Forecast and Warning Centre warned on Tuesday that water levels in the northern part of the country will remain dangerously high.

Monsoon patterns, crucial to the agricultural economies of India and Bangladesh, have been changing since the 1950s, with longer dry seasons mixed with heavy rains, said Roxy Matthew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune. An increase in extreme rainfall events is also expected.

Floods in northwest Bangladesh have so far been rare, while Assam, known for its tea growing, usually deals with flooding during its usual monsoon season later in the year. Anjal Prakash, research director at India’s Bharti Institute for Public Policy, said early rains this year had hit the region in just a few weeks, making the current flooding “unprecedented” situation, he contributed to United Nations-sponsored research. About global warming.

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

A total of 36 people have died in Bangladesh since May 17, while Indian authorities reported that the death toll from floods in Assam had risen to 78, with 17 more from landslides.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and millions in the region have been forced to scramble to build makeshift evacuation centers.

Some, like Mohammad Rashik Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Sylhet, the worst-hit city in northeastern Bangladesh, have taken their families home in apprehension to see what can be saved. He waded knee-deep in water and said he feared the flood would rise again. “The weather is changing … another disaster could happen at any time.”

According to a 2015 analysis by the World Bank Institute, he is one of about 3.5 million Bangladeshis each year who face the same predicament when rivers overflow.

The country of 160 million people is considered one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with the poor disproportionately affected.

Catastrophic floods like this year’s could have wide-ranging impacts, from farmers losing crops and falling into debt cycles to children not going to school and increasing the risk of illness, said Mohammad Arfanuzzaman, a climate change expert at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“The poor are suffering from persistent flooding,” he said.


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


The Associated Press Health and Science Division was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Division of Science Education. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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