Island sinks by the rising sea

Posted by: Joydip & Suchandra Kundu on

An island near the Bay of Bengal is being swallowed by the rising sea, possibly making it one of global warming’s earliest victims. The fact, if established beyond scientific doubt, could be the spur to global climate negotiations that seem to have cooled off after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted to have erred in its estimates big time. 

New Moore Island, also known as Purbasha island, is located on the confluence of the Ichhamati and Rai Mangal rivers near the mouth of the sea but remains almost perpetually submerged now, occasionally peeping out during low tides. This startling fact emerged from satellite images in 2009 that were studied by a team led by Sugato Hazra, director of Jadavpur University’s school of oceanography studies. “There is no trace of the island anymore. After studying satellite images, I reconfirmed this from fishermen,” said Hazra. 
Till the early ’80s, New Moore Island was a disputed territory claimed by both India and Bangladesh, referred to it as South Talpatti. The territorial dispute was resolved in India’s favour, but this 3-kmlong, 3.5-km-wide island may soon be wiped off the map. 
Though many environmentalists are yet to endorse the view that global warming is pushing up sea levels, rising temperatures are definitely responsible for the phenomenon, said Hazra. “The island does not have inhabitants now. Coastal erosion and rising temperature in the Bay of Bengal between 2000 and 2009 submerged Purbasha island. In the Bay of Bengal area, temperatures are rising at an annual rate of 0.4°C. Four super cyclones — Aila, Cedar, Bijli and Nargis — hit the southern parts of the Sunderbans from 2007 to 2009. The tide levels, too, are rising in the Bay of Bengal. This is evident from Purbasha island being submerged,” Hazra explained.There were similar fears in 1996 when Lohachara island in the Hooghly estuary vanished from the map. But an island is emerging again in the area, almost in the same region where Lohachara had once been. 

According to Hazra, Ghoramara and Jambudweep are among other islands that are slowly “sinking”. On islands like Bulcheri, Bhangaduani and Dalhousie facing a threat from the rising sea, the tiger population risks being wiped off. “Besides, Mousuni and Gblot islands face the threat of erosion, flooding due to storms and invasion of saline water,” said Hazra, who conducted the research along with Anirban Mukherjee and Anirban Akhand of the School of Oceanographic Studies.