KOLKATA — A tiny island at the centre of a territorial dispute between India and Bangladesh has disappeared beneath the waves due to rising sea levels and erosion, scientists say.
The uninhabited outcrop — called New Moore island by India and South Talpatti by Bangladesh — was 3.5 kilometres (about two miles) long and 3.0 kilometres wide before it was swallowed up by the Bay of Bengal.
“There’s no trace of the island anymore. After studying satellite images, I confirmed this from fishermen,” Sugata Hazra, a professor from the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, told reporters.
Hazra said global warming and erosion were responsible for solving a point of contention in the sometimes fractious relations between India and Bangladesh, which both claimed the island.
“Climate change has obliterated the source of dispute,” he said.
Hazra said temperatures in the region had been rising at an annual rate of 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
In 1981, the Indian navy planted its national flag on the island, but no permanent settlement was established.
The island, which is thought to have been created by a cyclone only about 40 years ago, sat in the Sundarbans mangrove delta in the mouth of the Hariabhanga River that divides India and Bangladesh.
At its height, it was never more than two metres (about six feet) above sea level.
Hazra said a larger island, called Lohachara, disappeared in the Bay of Bengal in 1996 after 4,000 inhabitants had fled.
At least five other islands in the region are also threatened, he said.
Bangladesh is one of the countries worst affected by climate change with some scientists predicting 20 million people will be displaced by 2050 because of rising sea levels