The political borders between states are unable to stop the effects of environmental deterioration from spreading from one country to another and from one region to another. That is why the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen have been adversely affecting the climate of not only these war-torn countries but also countries geographically located beyond the Middle East, including India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand.

Mideast wars spreading harmful gases

The military rivalries in the Middle East are becoming more intense by the day — pushing rival states to strive for an extraordinary and unrestrained level of militarization.

Some countries have been using destructive weapons in a number of ongoing wars and proxy wars, while others have been boosting the production and/or purchase of destructive weapons in their preparation for future wars.

Manufacturing and using these destructive weapons require massive consumption of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

This massive consumption of fossil fuels, in turn, releases into the air the millions of tons of harmful gases that were previously locked up for millions of years.

In the ongoing Syrian war, these harmful gases are being released into the air due to the use of tanks, artillery, missiles, etc.

Furthermore, the warplanes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Russia, Turkey and the US-led Western coalition have been dropping bombs, which also release harmful gases into the air. The use of barrel and chemical bombs against civilian targets also releases these harmful gases.

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Like in the Syrian war, harmful gases are being released into the air by similar military activities in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Yemen.

Harmful gases leading to rising sea levels

Alarmingly,  when these gases are released into the air, the global temperature rises gradually — making the planet’s atmosphere warmer and warmer.

This warming atmosphere melts the mountain ice and polar glaciers in the Arctic, Antarctic, Himalayas and elsewhere. Ice and glaciers turn into water — which then flows into the seas and oceans of the world, raising the average global sea level.

This rise in the sea level makes the coastal landmass comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Pakistan extremely vulnerable.

Vast coastal landmass threatened

Already the coastal areas in Bangladesh, a country with a vast landmass along the Bay of Bengal, are threatened by the rising sea level. Around 6-8% of Bangladesh is expected to be submerged by 2030.

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India, which has coastlines on the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, is also highly vulnerable to the rising sea level. It is projected that a substantial portion of the Indian coastal landmass, which has  55 million inhabitants, will be submerged if there is a global increase in temperature of 4 degrees Celsius, though the objective of the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris was to cap the rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Even with this 2 degrees Celsius increase, some 20 million coastal inhabitants in India would still be affected adversely, as they would lose their homes.

Like India and Bangladesh, another South Asian country, Pakistan, is also facing environmental threats from rising sea levels. The coastal inhabitants in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Balochistan are expected to experience a decline in drinking water quality and a decrease in fish and shrimp numbers.

Moreover, the freshwater sources in the coastal areas of Pakistan, including rivers and aquifers, face deep intrusion by saline water due to rising sea levels — a vulnerability that Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Thailand also face during the dry season.

Thailand and Myanmar, two other countries in the Indian Ocean region, are also highly vulnerable to the rising sea level. Bangkok is at risk of becoming submerged within a few decades, as the city has been sinking 10 centimeters every year. As for Myanmar, a substantial portion of the country’s coastal areas is expected to be under water by 2050.

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Observations and suggestions

The only way to address this alarming phenomenon of rising sea levels is to address the causes. We must make sure that:

  • ongoing wars are brought to an end,
  • potential wars in the future are prevented, and
  • the militarization of regions is banned under international law.

If these steps are not taken, millions of people living in coastal areas across the globe, including India, could face an existential threat.