Climate Change

South Asian Drama

Bharat Dogra

It has often been stated that if the conflicts and confrontations existing at various levels in South Asia can be checked and contained to a very significant extent then this by itself can contribute more than anything else to reducing poverty and deprivation in this region. Now this needs to be emphasized with renewed vigour as in the current phase of climate change catastrophic events and disasters threaten the people of this region as never before. In addition climate change is likely to have adverse impact on agriculture, animal husbandry and related livelihoods, food security and health in numerous other ways. The poor people of the region are likely to bear the worst impact of climate change although they are the least responsible for it. Several studies have warned and scientific evidence has supported the warning that some of the worst impacts of climate change may be manifested in the densely populated villages and cities of South Asia.

The Global Environment Outlook and its regional assessments prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme noted recently that as many as 40 million people in India and 25 million people in Bangladesh are likely to be affected very adversely and face high risks in coastal areas due to the expected rise in sea level linked to the larger phenomenon of climate change. Several studies have drawn attention also to the high vulnerability of Pakistan to climate changes. Himalayan countries (such as Bhutan and Nepal) and island like nations (such as Maldives and Sri Lanka) are known to be highly vulnerable to several adverse manifestation of climate change.

Thus while cooperation among various nations of South Asia was needed very badly even earlier to reduce poverty and deprivation the need for this cooperation has increased significantly in the current ongoing phase of climate change. If conflict and confrontation are replaced with cooperation then enormous resources can be released from arms and defence expenditure to protecting people from new emerging threats and improving their livelihood base to increase their resilience to face the more difficult times ahead.

Secondly at a time when unprecedented and much more destructive disasters are expected the situation can be redeemed to some extent if prompt and adequate help from neighbouring countries is assured. Seriously threatened people should be in a position of seeking escape beyond national boundaries if necessary. This may be particularly necessary at the time of some disasters in mountain areas and coastal floods and also at the time of some very serious river floods.

Cooperation among various countries of the region is also going to be increasingly useful for providing advance warnings of disasters and also for taking various steps to minimize the damage from various impending disasters. There can be considerable sharing of not just scientific information but also information relating to good practices and people's initiatives at the grassroots level as well as providing opportunities to members of vulnerable communities in various nations to meet each other and help each other.

Thus there are several additional reasons for increasing cooperation now which are related to climate change and related factors but of course one cannot forget that earlier also strong reasons have existed for increasing peace and cooperation and eliminate the threat of war as well as nuclear weapons in this region where two countries possess nuclear weapors. Instead of living constantly under the scary shadow of war, terrorism and possibility of intentional or accidental explosion of nuclear weapons, a time has come now to reach consensus for eliminating the possibility of war and use of nuclear weapons in this region while at the same time increasing significantly the cooperation for facing the new emerging challenges relating to climate change and other ecological disruptions.

All this is very necessary and very desirable but progress towards peace has always been very tardy and hindered by too many hurdles in this troubled region and even when some sincere efforts are made one step forward is followed sooner or later by a step backward. This is due partly to the existence of very strong and selfish interests in various countries of this region who have a very narrow viewpoint of perceiving their own self interest in a situation of confrontation rather than cooperation.

To be able to get out of this trap, one significant way out is to try to establish a united democracy of South Asia based on the principles of justice, equality, decentralization, peace and environment protection at all levels. The establishment of such a union will ensure that the forces of peace and cooperation remain in control and the forces of conflict and confrontation can be effectively sidelined. Once this can be achieved the stable conditions for pursuing protective policies will be available on a longer term basis.

Vol. 49, No.7, Aug 21 - 27, 2016