Asia-Pacific

What it's like to grow up as your country succumbs to the impacts of climate change

School students in Bangladesh are speaking out about the need to do more about emissions. Source: SBS News

School students in Bangladesh are speaking out about the need to protect the planet and reduce emissions.

SBS chief political correspondent Brett Mason reports from Dhaka, Bangladesh

If some of the more severe projections play out, Bangladesh could be ground zero for the climate crisis.

A sea level rise of half a metre by 2050 would see 12 per cent of Bangladesh's landmass disappear, which would potentially displace 15 million people.

And the impact of a changing planet is already being felt there, with severe floods last year killing 60 people and displacing 800,000 more.

Major floods hit Dhaka last year.
Major floods hit Dhaka last year.
Getty

The United Nations has warned that one in three Bangladeshi children are now at risk from climate-linked disasters.

It's a point that many young Bangladeshis are acutely aware of.

A number of students in the capital Dhaka have joined 'green clubs' that are funded by Australian aid.

In one school, a club is using donations to its 'oxygen bank' to plant a rooftop garden above its classrooms to try and mitigate emissions and slow the impact of global warming.

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"The environment is being destroyed. The Himalayas are melting. I feel so upset. The world is becoming warmer," Year 8 student Hridika told SBS News.

"I don't think it can survive much longer. That's why we need to plant more trees, because of carbon dioxide."

Dhaka is home to 21 million people, with 1,000 more new residents arriving every day.

A staggering 82 per cent of the city is now concrete, with just six square kilometres of open space across the entire city.

In this context, Year 9 student Zilani said even a few trees can make a difference.

"Our role is to plant more and more trees. We need to make our country, and the whole world, much greener. We need to control the use of carbon," he told SBS News.

The students had a message for the leaders of nations where emissions are rising not falling.

"Many people say the climate is not changing, but the climate is changing, very slowly. We need to be aware of this because our world is going to be destroyed if we aren't," Zilani said.

Some of the trees planted by the green club.
Some of the trees planted by the green club.
Brett Mason

While Hridika said she was inspired by another young climate campaigner.

"I salute Greta Thunberg, many times. She is only my age but has done an amazing job bringing young people together."

Brett Mason travelled to Bangladesh as part of the Australian Regional Leadership Initiative, funded by the Gates Foundation.

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