An 'adaptive capacity' at work
Bangladesh officials, meanwhile, say the fence and everything it represents are just distractions. The country needs to build embankments, they say. It needs cyclone shelters and rice research. And it needs to address the already explosive internal migration to its capital city, Dhaka, an issue that rarely makes it into dramatic climate change reports.
"Prevention isn't sexy," said Omar Rahman, president of the Independent University, Bangladesh, in Dhaka.
"We shouldn't close our eyes to the possibility of [mass migration] happening, but I don't think it should distract from more immediate needs," he said.
Niels Veenis, first secretary for water management at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Bangladesh, said he sees some signs of progress. A participatory water management project in parts of the country, he noted, has been helping communities wrest infrastructure maintenance out of the hands of underfunded, undermanned central governments and into their own hands.
As to the larger threat of mass migration, Veenis said, "The threat is there. If you don't manage the threat, then yes, you're looking at a very dire situation. But Bangladesh has been given the natural tools to do something."
Paskal, of the Royal Institute, said Bangladesh, by pouring money and research into new ways to deal with climate change, is actually protecting the world from conflict.
"We need a stable India, and [climate migration] has the potential to destabilize India," she said. "If we try to put pressure on India to take in refugees, we're undermining our credibility in India's eyes."
But, Paskal said, Bangladesh "is a nation of serious, hard-working people. It is their adaptive capacity that is cushioning us from some of the worst impacts."
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500