By Paul Homewood
As Bangladesh celebrates 50 years of independence, Qasa Alom reflects on how the country his British-Bangladeshi family still calls home is being affected by climate change.
"Can you turn the air-con on?" I asked over and over but none of the grown-ups seemingly could hear me. "It’s so hot!"
My mum shot me a look that suggested I would have more than the heat to worry about if I carried on moaning.
We had come to Bangladesh, the country of my ancestors, to see my grandparents, visit our village and, as I was constantly reminded, to "learn about my roots".
As a child, I had spent my holidays roaming our lands – exploring the rice paddies with my younger brother, watching the farm hands tend to the cows and fishing in one of several fushkunis, or small lakes. It was a giant playground, full of joy, wonder and mischief.
But, that magic had started to wear off as a teen.
My dad was raised in Bangladesh and regularly goes back to look after our estate, visit the school he set up and catch up with the local villagers. Ever since I was a child I’ve been told that he plans to pass the old family home to my brother, sister and me to look after – but that’s not a topic we talk about much any more.
It often ends in an awkward silence.
Like many British Bangladeshis, my father feels duty-bound to help his village and the people he left behind. He has raised funds to build roads and a mosque, for farming equipment, and even to help people with medical bills.
Half the money he earned over the years working in Birmingham’s restaurant trade has been sent back to invest in the land and the village, which was named after his great-great-grandfather.
Every summer he would suggest that I return with him to help, but I used to shrug and say, "I don’t have time."
My grandmother is the only member of the family who still lives in the bari now – one by one everyone else emigrated abroad, to the UK, Canada, and the United States.
But according to my father, "Everything is falling into ruin. It’s all going to pieces, nobody is living there and it’s just becoming desolate."
My mum explains that generations of my father’s family have lived there and that he has worked hard to build it up. "He doesn’t want it to be lost."
I’ve heard these words hundreds of times – but they’ve never really sunk in until now.
I am now ready to help my father preserve our home. But there is something else to think about, and it’s a far greater threat than neglect and apathy: climate change.
Bangladesh is at the epicentre of the global climate crisis – 80% of the country is floodplain, and it is affected by floods, storms, riverbank erosions, cyclones and droughts. It ranks seventh on the Global Climate Risk Index of countries most affected by extreme weather events.
"I jokingly say, Bangladesh is God’s laboratory for natural disaster – we have all the disasters except volcanic eruption," says Prof Ainun Nishat, an environmental expert for the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research, who advises the Bangladeshi government.
Prof Nishat believes that unless we start to control greenhouse gas emissions today, the situation will become unmanageable.
The report then goes to complain, without any evidence, that floods, storms etc are getting worse.
But what about these claims that “everything is falling into ruin”?
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, rice production has been booming in recent years. So has the value of overall agricultural output:
Neither Alom nor BBC News present any objective data to support their assertion that global warming is turning rice farms into ruin in Bangladesh. Now we know why – there isn’t any supporting data.
Perhaps Alom’s family are simply poor farmers, finding a way to turn productive cropland into ruin despite the rest of Bangladesh enjoying a golden age for rice production. Or, more likely, perhaps Alom and BBC News are telling tall tales to sell a fictitious climate crisis.
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April 6, 2021 at 05:15AM