Polar bears drown swimming through hundreds of miles of open
water to reach shrinking ice fields.
Bears in the mountains of Spain no longer hibernate.
400 tigers crowd into the remaining one-third of an island off India.
Now humans.


music: Coyote

Disappearing world: Global
warming claims tropical island
For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas
Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean reports

Published: 24 December 2006
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island
off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the
Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal,
marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and
climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to
the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and
submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited
islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of
low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but
the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000
people, is unprecedented.

It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at
Calcutta's Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned
of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when
they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.

Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated.
Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university's School of Oceanographic Studies, says "it is
only a matter of some years" before it is swallowed up too. Dr Hazra says there are now
a dozen "vanishing islands" in India's part of the delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in
danger.

Until now the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the first
populated ones to disappear, in about eight years' time, but Lohachara has beaten them
to the dubious distinction.

Human cost of global warming: Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people homeless
Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island
have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all,
a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising
seas.