The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Air Date: 
April 09, 2014

Photo, above: After a Bangladesh storm and flood, this old man in despair sits on a fallen tree in front of his house that got damaged from another tree collapse during the storm at Mohammadpur.

Hour 2, Block D, Gardiner Harris, NYT, concerning: When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more. (See also the text at the very end of this schedule.)


Co-hosts: Gordon Chang,, and Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show.

Hour One

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 1, Block A:  Scott Harold, associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation, in re:   Secy Hagel met with Chinese counterparts; fairly harsh, slightly bitter statements ensued.  The glossed-over relationship hitherto publicized has had the cover pulled off and the world o sees that the two countries have different goals.   . . . If the US is trying to contain China, it’s doing the worst ob it possibly could.  China is saying, Don’t support your allies, while the US is saying, If you're confrontational and expansionist, we'll take notice and respond.  The nature of this Chinese regime is authoritarian and unaccountable, running against the global trend of transparency, human rights and democracy.  Even tiny nearby countries are alarmed and standing up against Chinese.  Japan is much concerned lest the Crimea/Ukraine scenario start to play out in East Asia.

In a Test of Wills with China, U.S. Sticks Up for Japan  On his first trip to China as the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is finding himself in the middle of a spat that would not be out of place in “Mean Girls,” a movie about social cliques in high school.  For the first time, China will host the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting every two years of countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The W.P.N.S., as it is known in naval circles, counts among its members the United States, Australia, Chile, Canada and a number of Asian countries, including China and Japan.  Often at such meetings, the host country organizes an international fleet review, at which . . . [more]

U.S. defense chief gets earful as China visit exposes tensions

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 1, Block B: Christian Whiton, principal at D.C. International Advisory and author of Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War, in re:  The admiral of the US Pacific Fleet, Adm Harris, speaks of "a witches' brew for a miscalculation."  In Dec, a Chinese ship intentionally crossed the bow of the USS Cowpens, risking an immediate crash and the lives of US sailors.   As the US Navy has aver more tried to engage with China, China has pulled back. Someone now sees that this is an extremely dangerous situation.  Most American overtures turn out to be mainly espionage opportunities for China.  Crimea shows how fast situations can develop.  New alliances:  a rising, belligerent China – stumbling economically – creates opportunities for new collaboration, Scarborough Shoals was a wake-up call for the Philippines.  The real economic growth will be Asia.  Taro Aso, Japanese PM before, spoke of arc from India to South Korea: free markets, free political systems.  Japan and India now start to work together – a huge event.  India's next PM probably Narendra Modi – good for the US. Also, Vietnam has never been a close friend of China.  Concerning Secy Hagel: I don’t even know why he's there; he should be spending more time with allies – if he goes to China, they’ll just embarrass him.

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 1, Block C: Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and Marcia Smith,, in re: Roscosmos is building a new spacedrome way east – but right now even Susan Eisenhower worries about NASA breaking off relations – while Marco Rubio called that "an interesting point of view."  The whole issue of the new policy where US agencies interact with Russian counterparts is evolving. Not sure just what NASA is stopping: ISS is safe, plus two other main exemptions from this policy. As for China, many House members agree with Rep Wolf: preventing NASA from cooperating with China.  Roscosmos said it wouldn't break off from NASA.    This was a classified NSC memo that went to all agencies; since NASA is so transparent, it got sent to everyone and then got into the press.  Ergo: this was a directive that came directly from the White House [same WH that sent agents to agitate in Maidan, and the disgraceful and disgraced Victoria Nuland to Europe. –ed.]   Both the US and Russia depend on each other existentially in the Space Station.  ExoMars – European Space Agency plus Russia.  Exemption for SpectrumRG (US making mirrors for the Space Station) and other activities where NASA has routine discussions with Russian counterparts.

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 1, Block D: Gordon Chang,, in re;  Unfortunate recent exchange, US and Chinese defense ministers. Then-Secy Gates was sideswiped by a missile test while he was visiting; he later remarked on discord between Chinese leadership and flag officers.     Now: the militarization of Chinese foreign policy: navy, borders; Chinese military is taking the lead while the civilian leadership stands back. Xi Jinping was chosen to be leader because he was he least-unacceptable choice – not being identified with any political faction. Now, needing support, he's inducted the military as his faction; thus, they control him; not he, them.  Xi is more power-eager than his predecessors; his "anticorruption campaign" is openly a move to get rid of his enemies.  . . .

Hour Two

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 2, Block A: Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder of J Capital Research and author of, China Alone: The Emergence from, and Potential Return to, Isolation, in re:  Hangchou was the capital of an ancient kingdom, with early-Fifteenth Century map by a Frenchman.  It’s an iconic city, City of Kings, West Lake, Mao's special retreat; famous and beautiful.  green city fairly near Shanghai, big university, fairly sophisticated; temperate weather.  Developers now advertising 30% discount; seems to have precipitated a national worry about property values at present.  Collapse in values and volumes roll across the country?  Property values have been anemic for about two years. There's a momentum bubbles everywhere: exultant initially, then a moment when people are cautious but nervous – and then it breaks.  We may be at the third stage now.  . . .   Also: cobra wine, an enormous bottle of wine with a dead cobra in it to flavor the wine.  Have to go to Hangchou and buy an apartment.  It’s very overbuilt.  If you can get only 2 or 3% from a bank, buy real estate, hold on (don't rent it out); this is a store of value.  Chinese housing ownership now is  100% - in the US, it's 65%. Anne was interviewed on 60 Minutes on China's ghost cities. 

Between mid-January and late March, China’s renminbi depreciated by 2.8 per cent, before settling into a few days of small and shifting up-and-down movements. The official line painted the fall as an intentional move by regulators trying to reduce speculation in the currency. Belief in such intent, however, relies on a dangerous conviction that China’s policymakers want to stop that inbound flow of capital and are in complete control of the system.

Within China’s banks, the view is quite different: “No one will take our calls or meet with us,” said one investment banker about the regulators. Government officials are too afraid of political reprisals to take responsibility for policy moves which could expose them to reprisals and prefer to stay as inconspicuous as possible.

That the depreciation should come on the heels of the first publicly acknowledged trust default and the first default of a bond traded in Shanghai is no coincidence: the easing of the currency is a last-ditch effort to address tumult in domestic markets.  Among the bankers we talk to, astonishment and disquiet are the dominant reactions to the last three months in banking. Deposits are plummeting. Mortgage demand has fallen sharply in several cities that we have canvassed. Developers have halted projects, and several large property markets have either seen drastic price reductions or are hovering in an eerie calm without transactions. Unemployment seems to be rising.

At this time of rising stress on the system, it would serve everyone well to set aside their magical faith in the omnipotence of Chinese leaders.  Decades of intervention by China’s government have trained us all to believe that a market is not a natural system but instead something that is merely an elective for a growing economy. China has elected not to leave much to markets but, gradually, regulators are trying to bring the few good parts of markets into play by turning State-owned monopolies into State-owned oligopolies, with the goal of addressing the defects of a socialist system with select tools of a capitalist one.  This process is called “reform.”

The explanation of persistent imperfection in the development model is that wise leaders are challenged by unruly localities seeking narrow personal advantage. [more]  . . .  It’s a nice story; the reality, however, is simply that everyone is in this together.   . . .

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 2, Block B: Nitin Gokhale, anchor at New Delhi Television and author of Beyond NJ 9842: The Saichen Saga (launching this Friday), in re: Narendra Modui's natl defense policy will be a change: esp defense procurement has been a mess for the last three years; also, Modi clearly says, we can have good retains with China culturally but India must match China in defense in order not to repeat 1962.  Also, remember last year in Ladakh, when China ordered Delhi to back down.  Modi will be more resolute, focus on India's national security interests.   India has initiated several big-ticket procurements – 100 fighter jets from France, plus submarines.  Will have to modernize its entire defense establishment.  Islamabad: will begin with more of the same.  Yes, China will continue to support Pakistan but will not let that interfere with good Chinese-Indian relations.

Modi leaves himself room on Pakistan  The BJP certainly refers to increasing terror attacks in India by “Pakistan backed terror groups” and affirms “zero tolerance towards terrorism”.

The BJP manifesto released today leave s some room for its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the conduct of India’s relations with Pakistan, one of the most challenging accounts of the nation’s foreign policy.    By avoiding inflammatory rhetoric on Pakistan in the manifesto, the BJP has sought to dampen the speculation around the world that Modi’s leadership of India will lead to an inevitable confrontation with Pakistan

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 2, Block C: Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters, in re:  China  The bishop who stood up to China  China’s Communist Party thought it was installing its own man when they picked Thaddeus Ma Daqin to be ordained as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai. Instead, he spurned the party and sparked a crisis. Full article  Relations, Communist Party and Catholic Church.   Officially atheist Party refuses to be challenged by any organization; which side controls the ordination of bishops – Party or Vatican?  Tensions have eased a bit for several years. Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was about to be ordained by the Party when he respectfully declined; two communities: official church plus the underground church that supports Rome. Has been under house arrest at a monastery required to attend propaganda training, and held incommunicado. Bishop Ma has put Beijing in an embarrassing situation.  Pope Francis told an Italian paper that he's exchanged letters with Beijing.  Speculate that Francis might visit China this summer while he's in Asia.   . . .  The old bishop of Shanghai dies – in defiance of Beijing.  Vatican signaled it would move its diplomatic office from Taiwan to Beijing if the Latter became democratic/transparent. [Don't hold your breath.]

Photo, below: Jahanara Khatun

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 2, Block D:  Gardiner Harris, NYT, in re: In less than 18 years, millions of people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change.  Here, they pump out ground water, causing the land to collapse and making it easier for the sea to invade Also, putting in more and more levees, a la New Orleans.  The country on average is about 7 feet above sea level; in 2100, will have 200 million people and be underwater.  Bangladeshi officials shrug.  Rich countries are causing the problem; we'll return the favor by our population moving into other countries.  Predict dozens of millions of migrants.  Some places will disappear entirely – the Solomons, for example, and the Maldives (pop: 300,000).  Maldives famously had a Cabinet mtg last year underwater in scuba suits.  Three feet of sea-level rise is inevitable.

Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change  When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.  [more]

Hour Three

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 3, Block A:  Joseph Sternberg, WSJ Asia editorial board, in re: C919 is built to compete with the Boeing 737; the AR is a regional jet.  Poured billions into domestic jet programs to compete with Airbus, Bombardier, Boeing, Embraer – all for naught right now. Also bldg stealth fighters, fifth-gen planes, doing much better than civilian planes.  Designs for mil planes in China don't b=need to be certified internationally, but selling civilian planes internationally does require stringent certification.  China seems to be using an autarkic model: wants to have internally a total supply chain.  This year, they're bldg a perfect 1980s jet. Struggling with management.  Recall the high-speed rail in China several years ago where a train derailed and, to hide the tragedy of hundreds(?) dead – they buried cars with passengers caught inside.  People with cell phones took pictures, which told the world what Beijing had done.  When Geely bought Volvo, it was to gain the confidence of Chinese buyers?  Have spent at least $7 billion on bldg the three-decade old plane (actually, spent a whole lot more); even though the plane is irrelevant and antique, could perhaps a Party hack be skimming some of the investment?  Oops – the only mistake we make on this show is not being cynical enough. 

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 3, Block B: Monica Crowley, Fox, in re:  Jeb Bush; Bush family running for president.

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 3, Block C:  Harry Siegel, New York Daily News, in re:  There’s no small irony in seeing Al Sharpton — hardly an amateur when it comes to impugning the reputation of others — responding with frustration to an attack on his own.

Old history came back Monday to nip at the heels of the once-rotund reverend, immortalized by Tom Wolfe as Rev. Bacon and now by the FBI as Confidential Informant No. 7, who joins Client 9 in the numbered annals of shady NYC politics.

Long, shadowy story short: For four years in the 1980s, Sharpton, then an up-and-coming minister, activist and music promoter, wore a wire for the FBI. That news, first reported way back in 1988 by Newsday, took on new life when — just days before Mayor de Blasio and President Obama were due to stand with him at the National Action Network’s annual convention — The Smoking Gun dropped a 12,000-word bomb, plus copious supporting documents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the NYPD, detailing the reverend’s work for the feds, the particulars of which have long been contested (though not entirely explained) by him.

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 3, Block D:  Henry Nau, George Washington University & Hoover, in re:   Ukraine: conservative internationalism.

Hour Four

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 4, Block A: Lauren Goodrich,, in re: Ukraine: Protesters In Kharkiv Used Weapons, Grenades

U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair

Protests in Eastern Ukraine Stoke Tensions

Ukraine: Nationalist Group Attempts to Storm Supreme Court

Russian Decision Could Complicate Supply Lines to Afghanistan

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 4, Block B:   Eli Lake, Daily Beast, in re: Ukraine; DOD not sharing intell with Ukraine on Russian military doings.

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 4, Block C:  Devin Leonard, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, in re: KEVIN FEIGE: THE MASTER OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE   Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel’s ninth movie in six years, opens on April 4 and is likely to do better at the box office than Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s first film about the patriotic superhero, which grossed $370 million. Much of Marvel’s recent success can be attributed to Kevin Feige, who was named president of Marvel Studios in 2007 at just 33.  Devin Leonard visits Feige in Burbank and discovers that even though Marvel signed away the film rights to its most popular characters years ago, it has something more valuable: a universe of thousands of characters with interweaving story lines and a map of films reaching as far as 2028. Leonard learns about the initial tensions between Marvel and Disney, the fierce debates around how to translate comic book characters and plots into filmed entertainment, and perhaps the identity of the villain in this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy ("an imposing-looking villain any serious comic book fan would recognize instantly")—but not before promising not to name him. “That could not be a bigger spoiler," says Feige.  full story here

Wednesday  9 April   2014 / Hour 4, Block D:   Sid Perkins, Science magazine, in re: PHYSICS

ScienceShot: The Secrets of Flying Snakes

Gliding reptiles contort their tubular bodies to create efficient airfoils that don't "stall." BIOLOGYScienceShot: Asian Bird Is a True Loner 

The spotted wren-babbler is the only member of a new, genetically distinct group.

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Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land  Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change


DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.

Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.

Home in the Delta   Like many of her neighbors, Nasrin Khatun, unrelated to Jahanara Khatun, navigates daily life in a disappearing landscape.

As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise more than three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.

Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.

Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.

“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”

The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.

Photo  A woman stood where her house was before Cyclone Aila destroyed it in 2009. Scientists expect rising sea levels to submerge 17 percent of Bangladesh's land and displace 18 million people in the next 40 years.

At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.

“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist. “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.”

River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In the Ganges Delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal.

A Perilous Position

Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.

Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed seawalls compound the problem.

The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.

Bangladeshis have already started to move away from the lowest-lying villages in the river deltas of the Bay of Bengal, scientists in Bangladesh say. People move for many reasons, and urbanization is increasing across South Asia, but rising tides are a big factor. Dr. Rahman’s research group has made a rough estimate from small surveys that as many as 1.5 million of the five million slum inhabitants in Dhaka, the capital, moved from villages near the Bay of Bengal.

The slums that greet them in Dhaka are also built on low-lying land, making them almost as vulnerable to being inundated as the land villagers left behind.

Ms. Khatun and her neighbors have lived through deadly cyclones — a synonym here for hurricane — and have seen the salty rivers chew through villages and poison fields. Rising seas are increasingly intruding into rivers, turning fresh water brackish. Even routine flooding then leaves behind salt deposits that can render land barren.

Making matters worse, much of what the Bangladeshi government is doing to stave off the coming deluge — raising levees, dredging canals, pumping water — deepens the threat of inundation in the long term, said John Pethick, a former professor of coastal science at Newcastle University in England who has spent much of his retirement studying Bangladesh’s predicament. Rich nations are not the only ones to blame, he said.

In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.

“The reaction among Bangladeshi government officials has been to tell me that I must be wrong,” he said. “That’s completely understandable, but it also means they have no hope of preparing themselves.”

Dr. Rahman said that he did not disagree with Dr. Pethick’s findings, but that no estimate was definitive. Other scientists have predicted more modest rises. For example, Robert E. Kopp, an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute at Rutgers University, said that data from nearby Kolkata, India, suggested that seas in the region could rise five to six feet by 2100.

“There is no doubt that preparations within Bangladesh have been utterly inadequate, but any such preparations are bound to fail because the problem is far too big for any single government,” said Tariq A. Karim, Bangladesh’s ambassador to India. “We need a regional and, better yet, a global solution. And if we don’t get one soon, the Bangladeshi people will soon become the world’s problem, because we will not be able to keep them.”

Mr. Karim estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis would flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rose as expected.

Disappearing Land

Losing Everything

Already, signs of erosion are everywhere in the Ganges Delta — the world’s largest delta, which empties much of the water coming from the Himalayas. There are brick foundations torn in half, palm trees growing out of rivers and rangy cattle grazing on island pastures the size of putting greens. Fields are dusted white with salt.

Even without climate change, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable places in the world to bad weather: The V-shaped Bay of Bengal funnels cyclones straight into the country’s fan-shaped coastline.

Some scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather worldwide, including stronger and more frequent cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. And rising seas will make any storm more dangerous because flooding will become more likely.

Bangladesh has done much to protect its population by creating an early-warning system and building at least 2,500 concrete storm shelters. The result has been a vast reduction in storm-related deaths. While Cyclone Bhola in 1970 killed as many as 550,000 people, Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed 300. The deadliest part of the storm was the nearly 10-foot wall of water that roared through villages in the middle of the afternoon.

The poverty of people like Ms. Khatun makes them particularly vulnerable to storms. When Aila hit, Ms. Khatun was home with her husband, parents and four children. A nearby berm collapsed, and their mud and bamboo hut washed away in minutes. Unable to save her belongings, Ms. Khatun put her youngest child on her back and, with her husband, fought through surging waters to a high road. Her parents were swept away.

“After about a kilometer, I managed to grab a tree,” said Abddus Satter, Ms. Khatun’s father. “And I was able to help my wife grab on as well. We stayed on that tree for hours.”

The couple eventually shifted to the roof of a nearby hut. The family reunited on the road the next day after the children spent a harrowing night avoiding snakes that had sought higher ground, too. They drank rainwater until rescuers arrived a day or two later with bottled water, food and other supplies.

The ordeal took a severe toll on Ms. Khatun’s husband, whose health soon deteriorated. To pay for his treatment and the cost of rebuilding their hut, the family borrowed money from a loan shark. In return, Ms. Khatun and her three older children, then 10, 12 and 15, promised to work for seven months in a nearby brickmaking factory. She later sold her 11- and 13-year-old children to the owner of another brick factory, this one in Dhaka, for $450 to pay more debts. Her husband died four years after the storm.

In an interview, one of her sons, Mamun Sardar, now 14, said he worked from dawn to dusk carrying newly made bricks to the factory oven.

He said he missed his mother, “but she lives far away.”

Impossible Hopes

Discussions about the effects of climate change in the Ganges Delta often become community events. In the village of Choto Jaliakhali, where Ms. Khatun lives, dozens of people said they could see that the river was rising. Several said they had been impoverished by erosion, which has cost many villagers their land.  Muhammad Moktar Ali said he could not think about the next storm because all he had in the world was his hut and village. “We don’t know how to support ourselves if we lost this,” he said, gesturing to his gathered neighbors. “It is God who will help us survive.”

Surveys show that residents of the delta do not want to migrate, Dr. Rahman said. Moving to slums in already crowded cities is their least preferred option.

But cities have become the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which is now the source of 80 percent of the country’s exports, 45 percent of its industrial employment and 15 percent of its gross domestic product.


Rising Seas

Some areas of the globe are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and inhabitants are being forced to make stark changes in their lives.

In the weeks after the storm, the women of Dakope found firewood by wading into the raging river and pushing their toes into the muddy bottom. They walked hours to buy drinking water. After rebuilding the village’s berm and their own hut, Shirin Aktar and her husband, Bablu Gazi, managed to get just enough of a harvest to survive from their land, which has become increasingly infertile from salt water. Some plots that once sustained three harvests can now support just one; others are entirely barren.

After two hungry years, the couple gave up on farming and moved to Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, leaving their two children behind with Mr. Gazi’s mother.

Mr. Gazi found work immediately as a day laborer, mostly digging foundations. Ms. Aktar searched for a job as a seamstress, but headaches and other slum-induced health problems have so incapacitated her that the couple are desperate to return to Dakope.

“I don’t want to stay here for too long,” Mr. Gazi said. “If we can save some money, then we’ll go back. I’ll work on a piece of land and try to make it fertile again.”

But the chances of finding fertile land in his home village, where the salty rivers have eaten away acre upon acre, are almost zero.

Dozens of people gathered in the narrow mud alley outside Mr. Gazi’s room as he spoke. Some told similar stories of storms, loss and hope, and many nodded as Mr. Gazi spoke of his dreams of returning to his doomed village.

“All of us came here because of erosions and cyclones,” said Noakhali, a hollow-eyed 30-year-old with a single name who was wearing the traditional skirt of the delta. “Not one of us actually wants to live here.”

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