For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas.
Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean reports
Published: 24 December 2006
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an
inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara
island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the
Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one
of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate
scientists has started coming true.
As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from
the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from
Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the
first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati -
vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also
in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts
above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people,
It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by
researchers at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that
the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited
neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from
Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently
inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university's School of
Oceanographic Studies, says "it is only a matter of some years" before it is
swallowed up too. Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen "vanishing islands" in
India's part of the delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in danger.
Until now the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the
first populated ones to disappear, in about eight years' time, but Lohachara
has beaten them to the dubious distinction.
Human cost of global warming: Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people
Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara
island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of
land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in
danger of being submerged by the rising seas.