Thursday, April 1, 2010

New Moore Island: one more island sinking into the sea

There are dozens of islands sinking to the sea around the globe, and New Moore Island is the latest. Both India and Bangladesh have made claim to New Moore Island, which is situated between the two countries. Bangladesh residents that live on some of these islands have long since taken a short term loan to live on drier shores, but the issue is not improving. Rising sea levels have claimed more than just New Moore Island, but this tiny disputed island is bringing more attention to the issue than ever before.

New Moore Island by any other name

New Moore Island is a relatively small piece of disputed land – less than 3 square miles. India maintains that New Moore Island falls inside their maritime borders, and therefore is Indian. The state of Bangledesh calls the island South Talpatti and also claims it. There have never been any permanent settlements on New Moore Island. The island actually came under dispute only about 40 years ago, when New Moore Island / South Talpatti appeared after the Bhola cyclone. International opinion on the island is split, though India did once establish a base on South Talpatti / New Moore Island.

Sea levels rise beyond New Moore Island

The School of Oceanographic Studies in Calcutta reported to the BBC recently that New Moore Island had been entirely engulfed by increasing sea waters. Local fishermen have confirmed the accounts that New Moore Island is no more. Before the year 2000, sea levels in many of the world went up by approximately 3 millimeters a year, but between 2000 and 2010 sea level has risen at about 5 millimeters per year. In the Bengal Basin region and Sundarban Island chain, where New Moore Island was situated, sea levels are rising by about 3.14 centimeters a year. In the last fifteen years, four other Sundarban chain islands have disappeared to the ocean.
More island nations might sink
New Moore Island and the Sundarban Island chains aren’t the only islands at risk of sinking to the ocean. A small nation known as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean has been losing land mass steadily for years. The highest point in the Maldives is only 8 feet above ocean level, so even a high tide can cause problems for citizens. The government of the Maldives is building an artificial island called Hulhumale nearby for residents to move to. In the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, Tuvalu is also in danger of sinking. There are 11,000 residents of Tuvalu, all of whom can be without a home in as little as 50 years. 75 residents of Tuvalu can use military personal loans to move to New Zealand each year, but that is far from all of them. Other nations at risk of sinking like New Moore Island include Tonga, Kirbati, and the Marshall Islands.

How to stop the sinking?
In the end, there is no way to accurately measure the cause and effect of small islands ending up in the ocean. Islands can rise and fall in addition to the fact sea levels regularly change. There are also arguments about if the increased water levels are due to global climate change or natural variations in the climate. Governments are being asked to find solutions for islands like New Moore Island, though, because there is no way to stop an island from sinking once it has started.

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