Rising sea levels put Myanmar's villages on frontline of climate change

By Rozanna Latiff and Zaw Naing Oo BAGO, Myanmar (Reuters) - Three years ago, the villagers watched as the Sittaung River on Myanmar's southeast coast crept closer to them, swollen by powerful tidal surges from the Gulf of Mottama that eroded its banks. Eventually, the 1,500 residents of Ta Dar U had to accept the inevitable: move or be washed away. Dismantling their wooden homes, they relocated several kilometres inland, away from the fertile fields they had cultivated for decades.

Reuters February 27, 2020 07:12:08 IST
Rising sea levels put Myanmar's villages on frontline of climate change

Rising sea levels put Myanmars villages on frontline of climate change

By Rozanna Latiff and Zaw Naing Oo

BAGO, Myanmar (Reuters) - Three years ago, the villagers watched as the Sittaung River on Myanmar's southeast coast crept closer to them, swollen by powerful tidal surges from the Gulf of Mottama that eroded its banks.

Eventually, the 1,500 residents of Ta Dar U had to accept the inevitable: move or be washed away.

Dismantling their wooden homes, they relocated several kilometres inland, away from the fertile fields they had cultivated for decades.

"Where we now see water, our farming land used to be," said farmer Tint Khaing. "It was very big, nearly three hours' walking distance. We all lost our farmland to the sea."

Ta Dar U is among hundreds of villages at the frontline of Myanmar's climate crisis, where extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels have amplified and accelerated natural erosion.

Environmentalists consider Myanmar to be particularly vulnerable. It was among the top three countries affected by extreme weather between 1998 and 2018 on the Global Climate Risk Index, published by environmental think tank Germanwatch.

Sea levels are projected to rise about 13 cm (5 inches) by 2020, putting at risk about 2.5 million coastal residents, said Myint Thein, a U.S.-based groundwater consultant and member of Myanmar's natural water resources committee.

"Flooding will be worst during the rainy season and high tide, dragging salty water up into the land," he said.

Rapid erosion has already devoured 10 villages in the past four years, said Jos van der Zanden, chief technical adviser to the Gulf of Mottama Project, a Swiss-based organisation that provides assistance to displaced villagers.

FADING FUTURE

After their homes fell into the sea, the people of Ta Dar U, mostly rice farmers, scattered across the delta.

Saltwater contaminated their lands and they were forced to take up new occupations, with little success.

Nearly 200 students now travel hours every day to attend school after their own, which once stood near the town centre, was reduced to a crumbling pile of rubble on the riverbank.

"If the erosion continues at this rate, the future of the students will fade as well," said Myo Min Thein, the sole teacher at a makeshift school, who said he is struggling to teach the 26 students, ages 4 to 14, by himself.

Myanmar's climate change department has drafted plans to address rising waters but is not involved in resettling those displaced, deputy director Thin Thuzar Win told Reuters.

An official from the disaster management department said it did not have specific programmes for those displaced by riverbank erosion. Regional government officials did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

Low-lying villages should be moved immediately to areas at least 7 metres (23 feet) above sea level, said Myint Thein.

"It will be costly but it must be done," he said. "The environment has changed, so the people must learn to adapt."

(Additional reporting by Sam Aung Moon and Shoon Naing; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.