Island hope for Rohingya
● Dozens of new islands have emerged from the waters around Bangladesh over the last decade, providing a possible solution to the threat that rising sea levels pose to the low-lying coastal nation.
The government said on Monday that
29 islands with a combined area of
507km² had emerged from the Bay of Bengal since 2007.
Every year Himalayan rivers deposit an estimated 1 billion tons of silt in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Bangladesh, forming islands in the shallow waters.
Many of these islands, known as chars, could mitigate the threat of global warming.
“Every year Bangladesh has new land emerging,” said Maminul Haque Sarker, head of the Centre for Environment and Geographic Information Services.
One of the islands has been controversially earmarked as a possible temporary base for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar currently living in squalid — mostly makeshift — camps in southern Bangladesh.
The influx has overwhelmed facilities in the densely populated country, and authorities have struggled to find alternative land to house them.
Water expert Zahirul Haque Khan said dams could be set up to trap the vast amounts of sediment. “Bangladesh can gain hundreds of square kilometres of new land by trapping silt through cross dams and engineering interventions,” said Khan, the director of Institute of Water Modelling in Dhaka.