Rising sea submerges contentious island in Sunderbans

The New Moore Island, once a Indo-Bangla flashpoint, has been consumed by the rising sea.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The New Moore Island, once a flashpoint between India and Bangladesh in the Sunderbans is now history, as it has been consumed by the rising sea.

As per a report published in the Indian Express Wednesday, citing the findings of the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, there is ‘no presence’ of the island now - also called as Purbasha in India and South Talpatti by Dhaka.

The university has arrived at the conclusion after scrutinising recent satellite maps of the region. The island, said to be around 50 years old, was only two metres above the sea level.

“There is no presence of the island now. The recent satellite images establish this. This is the first time the loss of the island is being reported,” Professor Sugata Hazra, Director of School of Oceanographic Studies, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The New Moore Island — 3.5 km long and 3 km wide, located 2 km from the mouth of the Hariabhanga River - was part of the border dispute between the two countries since early 1980s.

Both Bangladesh and India staked claim to the island. India had even sent naval ships to the island and deployed BSF personnel who hoisted the Tricolour to assert India’s claim.

However, there was never any permanent settlement there, the report added.

“This is an unique instance of how climate resolves a dispute though it is now subdued. It also goes to show how climate can affect all of us beyond geographical boundaries. The Indian government had once sent ships with guns to guard the island. Now one will have to think of sending submarines to mount a vigil there,” Hazra said.

But New Moore is not the first island to be submerged in the Sunderbans. The first inhabited island to have been submerged by the rising sea level was Lohachara 1996. Another island Ghoramara is facing a similar threat - almost 48% of the island is said to have been already submerged.

The submergence of islands has resulted in large-scale migration of people. They are called as “climate change refugees” by environmentalists.

Clearly, a crisis is unfolding in the Sunderbans. In the past 40 years, the total area of the delta islands has shrunk by about 210 sq km to 6359.552 sq km.

As per the report, it has been also observed that there has been more accelerated erosion of land mass in the last ten years as compared to the preceding three decades.

School of Oceanographic Studies projects more inhabited and uninhabited islands in the Sunderban delta region will be lost by 2020.