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Global Commons

In a significant joint stakeholder initiative, officials and experts from Bangladesh and India have come together to raise awareness about climate-linked loss and damage in the Sundarbans at global platforms. This agreement was reached in Kolkata, signifying a cooperative effort to address the pressing climate impacts in this critical region.

This topic of “Global Commons” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Climate Impacts in the Sundarbans: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Shared Territory

The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is divided between West Bengal, India (40%), and Bangladesh (60%). This ecologically diverse region is home to a unique ecosystem, including the iconic Bengal tigers.

Human and Ecosystem Vulnerability

Climate change is taking a toll on the Sundarbans, impacting both the eight million people who reside there and the fragile ecosystem. UN reports have identified the transboundary Sundarbans as global hotspots for climate change, experiencing high-intensity cyclones, sea-level rise (more than double the global average), and significant erosion. These factors work in tandem, multiplying the risk to the region.

Economic and Human Costs

According to data from the West Bengal government, the region has suffered losses amounting to Rs 1.5 lakh crore from cyclones like Bulbul, Amphan, and Yaas. Climate risk projections indicate a rapid increase in temperature, cyclone frequency, and flooding of low-lying areas by 2050. Sea level rise has already resulted in a loss of 210 square kilometers of land in the Indian Sundarbans over the last six decades.

Population Vulnerability

Approximately one-fourth of the eight million people living in the Sundarbans face the imminent threat of climate-triggered disasters. This constitutes 0.1% of humanity, a population larger than that of several European countries. These individuals stand at the doorstep of climate-induced calamities, with five million residing in India and the rest in Bangladesh.

Understanding Global Commons

Geopolitical Basis

Global commons refer to areas beyond national jurisdiction that are shared by the international community. These include the atmosphere, high seas, Antarctica, and outer space.

Economic Basis

On an economic basis, global commons are overused shared resources, regardless of national jurisdiction. These encompass the atmosphere, land, ocean, ice sheets, a stable climate, abundant biodiversity, forests, and the flows of carbon, nitrogen, water, and phosphorus.

The Tragedy of the Commons

The concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons” was first coined by ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968. It describes the scenario in which individuals, when acting in their self-interest, deplete and destroy the value of finite and valuable resources that are shared collectively.

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