Bangladesh, a low-lying, flood-prone nation is frequently described as one of the most climate vulnerable nations in South Asia—and in the world. In reality, however, several other South Asian states are just as, if not more, pressed.
Take Pakistan. Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index, which measures the impacts of weather-related disasters (in terms of death tolls and financial losses), has ranked Pakistan as one of the world’s ten most-impacted countries in recent years. A 2015 UN study, which had a similar conclusion, pointed to the country’s perfect storm of geographic, demographic, and climatic conditions—an arid climate, large coastal populations, and a strong dependence on glaciers for drinking water. Experts estimate that about a quarter of Pakistan’s land area and half its population of nearly 200 million are vulnerable to climate change-related disasters.
Then there’s India, which according to the World Health Organization, is home to 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities—including New Delhi, the world’s most polluted city. India’s climate risks are particularly acute because, as in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the coastal regions are densely populated and the economy depends heavily on agriculture. The Center for Global Development’s Climate Vulnerability Index estimates that by 2050, nearly 40 million people in India could die from rising sea levels. It also projects that higher temperatures could bring down agricultural productivity by 40 percent come 2080.
In short, all of South Asia is dangerously climate vulnerable. The coastal states of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are threatened by rising sea levels and flooding. Landlocked Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Nepal face rising temperatures, drought, and glacial melt. And the tiny yet densely populated island state of Maldives—the lowest-lying country in the world—faces the very real prospect of complete submersion in the not-too-distant future.