The Earth’s climate has constantly been changing over time, ascribing to the small variations in the rotation of the Earth, which affects the amount of solar energy received. However, the natural fluctuations of the Earth’s current temperatures have been disrupted due to the human use of fossil fuels which emit greenhouse gasses in the air. This results in global warming, or the overall rise in surface temperature on Earth. This heat trapped in the atmosphere induces instability of the Earth’s climate which include sea level rising, droughts, and air pollution. Two areas of the world that have witnessed the dire consequences of climate change are South Asia and East and Southeast Asia. The increase in sea levels in the majority of Asia have caused displacement of millions of people, great losses of arable land, and drastic economic losses. South Asia is comprised of the countries, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Maldives.
The area has a wide range of topography and climates with its four physiographic regions including coastal plains and tropical beaches, southern plateaus, the great plains, and the northern mountains. The region is heavily dependent on monsoons as it supplies massive amount of water that is needed to grow water-intensive crops such as rice, a large component of the South Asian diet. Monsoons also provide rainfall that sustains tropical rainforests are good sources of snow and ice in Himalayas that feed into the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra river systems.
On the other hand, monsoons have imposed harsh lifestyle conditions on South Asians. Monsoons has countless negative impacts such as widespread flooding, property damage, destruction to agricultural lands, damage to transportation infrastructure, homelessness, disease, malnutrition, serious injury and even death. Nevertheless, the alarming rise of sea levels in Bangladesh, in particular has raised awareness. The population density is the highest in South Asia and yet population is still increasing by 2% annually.
In fact, the most densely populated country is Bangladesh with 3,128 people per square mile. The most dense areas are around river valleys and near coastal lowlands. For example, many people in Bangladesh live in water-sodden conditions, due to coastal elevation and sea-level rise from climate change. Although other countries in South Asia are affected, Bangladesh serves as the prime example of the detrimental effect of rising sea levels. The complex Bengal delta system created by the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers makes up about eighty percent of the country.
Sitting at the foot of the Himalayas, Bangladesh is also one of the flattest, lowest lying countries in the world. Nearly a quarter of the land in the area is less than seven feet above sea level. People of Bangladesh are accustomed to living with water due to rivers and monsoons.
Furthermore, massive floods are common as well cyclones are common in Bangladesh. In particularly the South, cyclones have been stronger, bigger, and more frequent recently, leaving thousands to die and a million people homeless. By the end of the century, climate scientists project that there will be a three foot rise in sea level, that will result in seventeen percent of the land mass flooded by salt water. This will force approximately twenty million people off their land by the end of the century. Another study done by the IPCC also estimates that by 2050, sea level rise in Bangladesh could directly displace more than 3 million of the 111 million people living there. People in Bangladesh have already begun migration to more inland to escape sea level rise of the South. People in Bangladesh have always been drawn to the capital city of Dhaka, as it is their only source for jobs to improve their economic standing.
Dhaka is urbanized with abundant factories, as Bangladesh is the third largest garment exporter in the world. However, Dhaka stands as the one of the world’s highest densely populated cities and migration to Dhaka due to the rising sea level is drastically increasing the already overpopulated city. Some demographers predict that Dhaka will nearly double in population in about two decades.
Up to 2,000 people arrive to Dhaka daily, overpacking the city and creating poor and unclean living conditions. Nonetheless, working conditions are strikingly worse. The majority of new migrants have no choice than to work in unsafe factories, earning less than two dollars a day.
An example of these harsh working conditions was Rana Plaza, a garment factory that made clothing for top Western brands. The owner of the factory illegally added floors and crammed people to work to increase production which caused the collapse of the building and resulting over 1,000 deaths and leaving another thousand injured. There is severe damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and human health from the rising of sea levels.
Cyclones have swallowed homes of many Bangladeshis, leaving approximately a million of them homeless. Many try to flee to its western border country India escape the climate change threats but India had made great lengths to ensure Bangladeshis don’t cross over to their side. Migrants that are caught crossing the border are easily shot down by the Border Security Force of India. Moreover, as rising sea levels increase the intensity and frequency of cyclones in Southern Bangladesh, salt water is pushed towards the north, destroying arable land.
In fact, the cyclone Aila in 2009 pushed so much salt so far inland that five years later, much of the salt still remains and the rising sea level is only worsening this issue. Bangladesh heavily relies on agriculture for their diet, and thus, the loss of arable land will only worsen the already widespread poverty throughout the country. The unpredictable cyclones from climate change resulted in an increase in skin infections, diarrheal diseases, respiratory tract infections, and as well as other severe health issues from the salinity of the water. Bangladeshis have adapted by placing hospitals on boats for people in the South that encounter these health risks. Southeast Asia stretches from eastern India to China, consisting of eleven countries and is divided into mainland and inland zones.
The mainland region includes Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar and the inland area is made up of Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore. Southeast Asia is located between the tropics, causing temperatures to be generally warm whereas, cooler temperatures reside in highland areas. Similar to South Asia, Southeast Asia is also affected by monsoon winds. A key feature of the mainland are long rivers in from the highlands that divide Southeast Asia from China and northwest India. Fertile lowland plains encompass the mainland as well that are well developed for growing rice, key to the Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese diets. Another aspect of mainland Southeast Asia is its long coastline. The inland region is made up of countless islands, where temperatures are high year-round. Unlike the mainland, rainfall is higher and more evenly distributed throughout the year, due to the frequent typhoons.
Relatively dense populations are found in the Southeast Asia’s river deltas, coastal areas, and zones of fertile volcanic soil.