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Doha hints at help for Sunderbans

Doha, Dec. 4: The home of the Bengal tiger could look forward to a helping hand from the developed world to counter the effects of climate change.

Bangladesh environment minister Hasan Mahmud said the Sunderbans, which covers parts of Bangladesh and Bengal and is one of the most “vulnerable” to climate change, might benefit “significantly” from a decision expected during the ongoing climate talks here in the Qatar capital.

In a chat today, he said least developed countries (LDCs) and developing nations were negotiating strongly to make “loss and damage” a formal instrument in climate talks.

The concept involves compensation and support vulnerable regions should receive from the developed world for damages caused by extreme and “slow onset” events. It also talks about developing capacity to counter future events.

Sources said though the US was shying away from the responsibility of compensation and the European Union was not too keen either, almost all other groups like the LDC, Alliance of Small Island States and African countries were pushing for the concept to go through independently.

“There has been extreme pressure from these countries and the US and the EU may not risk seeing all these countries ganging up, which can be disastrous for them, especially the EU, in the overall negotiation,” said Harjeet Singh of Action Aid.

“We expect the (loss and damage) issue to be carried as a separate negotiating sector, though the developed countries are trying to club it with adaptation,” said Mahmud.

The Telegraph has a copy of the text of the negotiations, which shows the Sunderbans, a world heritage site and one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger, can identify with many of the issues involved.

The text refers to “population(s) that are already vulnerable”, “trans-boundary loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change”, and “human mobility, displacement and migration” — all relevant to the region. Loss and damage also includes effects from “slow onset events” like sea level rise.

The Sunderbans, intersected by a network of waterways and islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, has the country’s maximum sea level rise, which has led to significant land subsidence, ecosystem loss and displacement.