Villagers fear for survival on India’s disappearing island

Ghoramara Island, part of the Sundarbans delta on the Bay of Bengal, has nearly halved in size over the past two decades, according to village elders. (Reuters)
Updated 29 November 2018
0

Villagers fear for survival on India’s disappearing island

  • The tiny island is home to 4,800 people, down from 7,000 a decade ago
  • Ghoramara is among many islands in the delta affected by rising sea levels

GHORAMARA ISLAND: Residents of India’s Ghoramara Island want to leave their home as it shrinks each year due to rising seas, but many say they can’t afford it.
The 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) island, part of the Sundarbans delta on the Bay of Bengal, has nearly halved in size over the past two decades, according to village elders.
The tiny island is home to 4,800 people, down from 7,000 a decade ago.
“If a tsunami or a big cyclone hits this island we will be finished,” said Sanjib Sagar, village leader on the island 150 km (93 miles) south of the Indian city of Kolkata.
The Sundarbans, shared by India and Bangladesh, include the world’s largest mangrove forest as well as rare or endangered tigers, dolphins, birds and reptiles.
Ghoramara is among many islands in the delta affected by rising sea levels and soil erosion experts say is caused by climate change.
Residents say the flood waters are getting worse, threatening their homes and livelihoods.
“If government gives rehabilitation I will leave,” said Sheikh Aftab Uddin, sitting outside his new mud house with his wife, after his previous home was destroyed by flood waters.
Half of the villagers are ready to move if the government provided free land in a safer area, Sagar said, but there has been no response to their request for compensation or to move people off the island.
Two people in the office of Javed Ahmed Khan, the minister in charge of disaster management in the state government of West Bengal, declined to comment on whether it had any plans to relocate inhabitants.
Floods have churned the island’s shoreline into mud fringed with broken coconut palms. Fishermen cast their nets to try to take advantage of the rising waters.
As well as damaging homes, floods destroy valuable betel leaf crops that many islanders have depended on for a living.
“Every year, high-tide salt water enters my farm and destroys my cultivation, so I have to face a big loss,” said Mihir Kumar Mondal, a betel leaf farmer.
Climate change experts say the entire island population will have to be relocated one day.
“There has to be some planning for those people, in terms of relocating them to other areas. Frankly speaking, this has to be in the plan of the government,” said Suruchi Bhadwal, a researcher on climate change at the New Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute.


Dissolution of Sri Lankan Parliament ‘invalid,’ Supreme Court rules

Updated 14 December 2018
0

Dissolution of Sri Lankan Parliament ‘invalid,’ Supreme Court rules

  • Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a tweet: “We trust that the president will promptly respect the judgment of the courts”

COLOMBO: The Supreme Court in Colombo on Thursday ruled that the dissolution of Sri Lanka’s Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was invalid and described it as unconstitutional.
The verdict also declared that the notice of dissolution announced in the government gazette was null and void and that the Parliament could not be dissolved until four and half years from the last general elections.
On Nov. 9, Sirisena dissolved the Parliament citing his own reasons for his actions. The president appointed the former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, replacing the incumbent premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The functions of the state were paralyzed when the Court of Appeal ruled this week that Rajapaksa and his team of ministers could not execute their official work until it issued a final verdict.
Thursday’s unanimous verdict was delivered in a packed courtroom by the seven-judge panel. Security was beefed up around the Supreme Court ahead of the verdict.
The petitioners argued the legality of the provisions of Articles 33, 62, and 70 of the constitution, which were subject to conflicting interpretations on the question of whether or not the president has a unilateral power to dissolve Parliament. Each of these provisions were amended by the 19th Amendment in 2015, and the changes went to the heart of the current disagreements over the power of dissolution.
Reacting to the verdict, Namal Rajapaksa, the son of Mahinda Rajapaksa and a parliamentarian, said: “We respect the decision of the Supreme Court, despite the fact that we have reservations regarding its interpretation. We will continue to stand alongside those calling for a parliamentary election, without which there is no real justice for the people.”
President of the National Unity Alliance Azath Salley told Arab News that while respecting the judgment of the court, he still believes that a general election will allow the people to decide the government they need.
Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, told Arab News that the verdict is a victory for democracy and a greater victory for minority communities on the island. “We are happy that the court has upheld democratic values and shown the world that Parliament is supreme and democracy is really people’s rule,” he said.
Udaya Gammanpila, a minister in the defunct Cabinet, said: “We respect the decision of the Supreme Court although we are not in agreement with its interpretations.”
Rauff Hakeem, a former minister, said that the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law have eventually triumphed. Hakeem, who is the leader of the Muslim Congress, has a good number of legislators from his party in the Parliament.
Mujibur Rahman, a legislator from the Colombo Central Electorate, said that the court verdict had proved that the country could not be run on the whims of an individual such as Sirisena.
“Sri Lanka is a democratic country which is governed by a constitution and people’s Parliament,” he said. He also insisted that Sirisena should gracefully accept his mistake and resign from his post since he had broken the trust of the 6.2 million voters of Sri Lanka.
Rahman also said that decisions taken in the parliament during the litigation are valid from the retrospective date of when the dissolution was announced. “It’s a great victory for people and it also proved that still judiciary is independent in Sri Lankan,” he said.
Ousted premier and UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a tweet: “We trust that the president will promptly respect the judgment of the courts.”