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Venice: The Bangladesh of the West

Clim ate change becomes the great leveller as Italys Adriatic jewel and Bangladeshs poverty stric!en deltas face s"rprisingly similar problems By Michele Penna Apr 02, 2014

What do Bangladesh and Venice have in common# $ost wo"ld g"ess little or nothing and it is indeed hard to see a lin! between the l"sh% green mangroves of the Bay of Bengal and the wooden piers lined with gondolas of the Venetian lagoon& B"t the two places share a common challenge% and a vital one at that: they both are among the most v"lnerable places to climate change in the world& According to the Asian 'evelopment Ban!% more than ()) million hectares of arable land in Bangladesh co"ld be affected by sea level rise% with saline water intr"sion threatening drin!ing water s"pply% agric"lt"re% and a*"ac"lt"re& +o" have (,) million people s*"ee-ed in a tiny territory at the end of large rivers with a lot of coastline and an immense amo"nt of erosion%. said /cott 0ec!ie% director at 'isplacement /ol"tions% a 1eneva based non profit association which wor!s with displaced comm"nities& Bangladesh is one of the most affected places by climate change and by climate displacement& 2stimates point to () 3) million people that co"ld be displaced&. In an effort to prevent the worst from happening% his organi-ation has identified (4) acres of

land in seven locations in Chittagong district which co"ld be allocated to displaced families& B"t rising sea levels are not the only concern% as 5osh 1alperin% associate director of the +ale Center for 2nvironmental 0aw and 6olicy% made clear in an email interview with Asian Correspondent: 7All the dangers of climate change are interrelated% so when we say that rising seas are a danger% it is also tr"e that loss of habitat% decreased agric"lt"re prod"ctivity% and wea!ened infrastr"ct"re% for e8ample% are threatened beca"se of higher temperat"res&. Climate change is also believed to be behind increasingly e8treme weather phenomena& 7The change of climate is manifest in many ways%. $r 0ec!ie said& 7The most obvio"s is the rising sea level d"e to melting ice at the poles% b"t yo" also have increasingly strong and more fre*"ent storms pretty m"ch everywhere& They often are o"t season% stronger% and harder to predict&.

Floodwaters flow to a lower area as villagers rebuild an embankment in Bangladesh. i!" A . Bangladesh has e8perienced some of the strongest cyclones and tropical storms in history& 9esearch p"blished by the World Ban! reports that between (:,, and (44; the /o"th Asian nation was hit by (;< cyclones& 7=n average%. reads the paper% 7a severe cyclone stri!es Bangladesh every three years&. =ne s"ch event occ"rred in >)),% when the co"ntry was ravaged by Cyclone /idr& According to ?@IC2A% its winds B sweeping the land at ><) !ilometers per ho"r B ca"sed 3%3C3 deaths% damaged (&; million homes and wrec!ed >&; million acres of

cropland& The trend is li!ely to persist and possibly worsen& Another st"dy by the World Ban! points o"t that 7potential impact hotspots s"ch as Bangladesh are projected to be confronted by increasing challenges from e8treme river floods% more intense tropical cyclones% rising sea level and very high temperat"res&. According to $r 1alperin% a 7sea level rise will impact the availability of drin!ing water% will destroy agric"lt"re prod"ctivity% and will ma!e Bangladeshs rise from poverty even more diffic"lt& $oreover% flooding will drown rare coastal forest habitats and all the v"lnerable species that live there&. Venice% occ"pying the northernmost point of the relatively benign Adriatic /ea% is not affected by s"ch large scale calamities& Dowever% being a city b"ilt right on the sea rather than close to it means that the threat of rising water is a serio"s headache& The city is already e8periencing an increasing n"mber of flooding B what the locals call Eac*"a alta B when the gro"nd floor of the city is s"bmerged and shop owners are b"sy p"shing the water o"t rather than wor!ing& In a partic"larly bad case in >)(>% the Adriatic s"rged to (&< meters above its normal level% s"bmerging ,) per cent of the city center& Venetians have lived with this phenomenon for a long time% b"t f"rther sea level rises co"ld have nefario"s conse*"ences& 7Venice is a developed "rban area& There% flooding threatens to destroy cent"ries of history% architect"ral% and c"lt"ral treas"res% and a s"bstantial to"rism ind"stry& There may also be health impacts as the poll"ted waters of the Venice canals rise more reg"larly into contact with residents and visitors%. arg"ed $r 1alperin& A"thorities have started fighting bac! against the sea by p"tting in place a system of ,: "nderwater barriers which sho"ld ins"late the city against dangero"s flooding& The massive constr"ction% called $=/2% is worth over ; billion e"ros F?/GC&4 billionH and% according to the projects official website% sho"ld protect the city against tides "p to three meters high and a sea rise of "p to C) cm in the coming cent"ry& The $=/2 is an interesting case of adaptation to climate change% a process which is ever more important if the world is to escape the worst effects of rising temperat"res& According to Iatherine Watts% head of energy at thin! tan! 1reen Alliance% in order to effectively prevent f"t"re disasters people need to learn how to live with climate change& The process sho"ld be highly specific& 7A lot depends on the impacts yo" are li!ely to face& If yo" are in the Dimalayas and glaciers are melting yo" have to thin! abo"t how yo" can manage that% while if yo" are living on the coasts it is entirely different%. 'r Watts pointed o"t&

It is critical to foc"s on climate change mitigation and poll"tion red"ction% b"t it is e*"ally important to address adaptation%. arg"ed $r 1alperin& 7@o matter how fast we move% climate change will disr"pt o"r way of life% and we need to become more resilient and adaptable&.