State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Rivers and the Road

One of our two boats sailing under the 5-km long Jamuna Bridge to a char.

On Monday, we used the boats of the resort to go visit one of chars (islands) in the Brahmaputra.  This char was right beneath the Jamuna Bridge.  It was only a small sandy, unpopulated char when the bridge was built.  However, the changes in currents due to the bridge helped the island to grow.  Five to seven years ago people started moving to the island.  Now there are a number of communities on the char.  The newest one is in the eastern part of the island where it is growing.  The char is moving, eroding on its western side and growing on the east.  The “flooding” group immediately started interviewing the residents with the help of the Dhaka students, gathering information on their history of migration and their life on the char.  All of them, were very

Resting and eating papaya at Jamuna Bali, an gift from the residents.

open and forthcoming.  One of them apologizing that she was too poor to offer anything to our large group, but then her husband cut two papaya from the tree next to their house.  We tried to refuse, but the next thing we knew, a platter of papaya was being passed around.  One of their neighbors proudly insisted on showing me his 6’ x 12’ thatched home.

After the islands, during some free time, a group of students went into nearby Tangail to go shopping, returning with lungis and saris.  We all wore then to the evening’s festivities.  Under a tent, we feasted on BBQ fish, chicken and lamb while a musical group played both traditional Bengali music and contemporary pop.  A strange setting to see everyone dancing to Lady Gaga.

Tal Lee, Ashley and Fiona in their new saris

The next morning, we hit the road again.  Driving across multiple regions of Bangladesh, crossing the Ganges River and ending in Mongla at the edge of the Sundarbans.  Traffic was  light in the morning, but a stretch of bad road, a flat tire and traffic took its toll in the afternoon.  We lost hours and finally reached Khulna to pick up the waiting Scott Nooner.  More trouble with the tires led to us not getting to Mongla until after dark, without any time for visiting shrimp farms or the compaction site.  We will have to do it all after the Sundarbans.  A lesson in life in Bangladesh, always be prepared to adjust your schedule.  Nothing ever going completely as you planned, but somehow it works out fine in the end.  A land of improvisation and resiliency.

On the bus
Singing helps pass the time on the long bus ride.
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