Bangladesh wants SAARC fund for climate change

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh has proposed the creation of a fund to fight climate change in densely populated South Asia, which experts say is vulnerable to rising seas, melting glaciers and greater extremes of droughts and floods.

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Regional experts on climate change began two days of talks in Dhaka on Tuesday, ahead of a meeting of environment ministers from countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

“We want to find a common stand among the South Asian countries and will raise our voice together against the perils of climate changes,” said Raja Devasish Roy, head of the Environment and Forest Ministry of Bangladesh, after opening the experts’ meeting.

SAARC, comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, will adopt a common strategy at the Dhaka meeting, officials said.

Devasish said industrialised countries were the most to blame for global warming and should compensate poorer nations by providing them grants -- not loans -- to fight the effects of climate change.

“Bangladesh has already created a fund for climate change and allocated $44 million for this purpose in the current fiscal year’s (July-June) budget,” Devasish said.

“We call upon all development partners and relevant agencies to come forward to contribute to this fund,” he said.

Britain will host a conference in London in September on climate change impacts on Bangladesh and officials expect donors will pledge contributions at the conference.

Experts say a third of Bangladesh’s coastline could be flooded if the sea rises one meter (three feet) in the next 50 years, displacing 20 million Bangladeshis from their homes and farms. This is about the same as Australia’s population.

Across the region, warmer weather could cause more intense and more frequent cyclones and storm surges, leading to more salt water fouling waterways and croplands, the experts said.

Corp yields in South Asia could decrease up to 30 percent by the mid-21st century, they added.

In 2007, two successive floods ravaged Bangladesh and parts of India. In November, Cyclone Sidr killed thousands in Bangladesh and damaged large areas of agricultural land.

Reporting by Masud Karim, Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by David Fogarty