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Island Vanishes After Decades Of Disputes

March 24, 2010

India and Bangladesh have argued for nearly 30 years about who controls a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal, but rising sea levels have put an end to the dispute.

Oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, said that New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged.  He said that satellite imagery and sea patrols have confirmed its disappearance.

“What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming,” said Hazra.

Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university said there is an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen over the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.

He said that until 2000, sea levels were about 0.12 inches a year, but have risen to 0.2 inches over the last decade.

Hazra said Lohachara, another island close-by, was submerged in 1996, forcing inhabitants to move to the mainland while half of the land of Ghoamara island was underwater.  He said that at least 10 other islands in the area are also at risk.

“We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced from the Sunderbans as more island areas come under water,” he said.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is one of the countries most affected by global warming.  Officials say that 18 percent of the country’s costal area will be underwater, and 20 million people will be homeless if sea levels rise 3.3 feet by 2050.

India and Bangladesh both claimed the empty New Moore Island, which is about 2 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.  Bangladesh claimed the island South Talpatti.

New Moore had no permanent structures, but India sent some paramilitary solders to its shoes in 1981 to hoist its national flag.

An official in India’s foreign ministry, which spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on international disputes, said the demarcation of the island, as well as who controls the remaining islands, is an open issue between the two South Asian neighbors, and the disappearance of the island does nothing to resolve it.

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