For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued for control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island’s gone.
New Moore Island has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.
“What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking has been resolved by global warming,” Hazra said.
Scientists at the university’s School of Oceanographic Studies have noted an alarming
increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen during the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.
Until 2000, the sea levels rose about 0.12 inches a year, but during the last decade they have been rising about 0.2 inches annually, he said.
Another nearby island, Lohachara, was submerged in 1996, forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland, while almost half the land of Ghoramara island was underwater, he said. At least 10 other islands in the area were at risk as well, Hazra said.
Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is one of the countries worst-affected by global warming. Officials estimate 18 percent of
Bangladesh’s coastal area will be underwater and 20 million people will be displaced if sea levels rise 3.3 feet by 2050 as projected by some climate models.
India and Bangladesh both claimed the empty New Moore Island, which is about 2 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.
There were no permanent structures on New Moore, but India sent some paramilitary soldiers to its rocky shores in 1981 to hoist its national flag.
The demarcation of the maritime boundary — and who controls the remaining islands — remains an open issue between the South Asian neighbors, despite the disappearance of New Moore, said an official in India’s foreign ministry.