Unreported World: Drowning Country
“Beautifully filmed by director Andy Wells, this is above all a documentary
where the pictures tell the story.” – The Observer
This excellent series continues with an impassioned report from Bangladesh by young British reporter Ramita Navai. Last November’s cyclone hit the headlines but, the truth is that this poverty-stricken, densely populated South Asian country is suffering from problems related to climate change, with water levels rising inexorably and floods that once occurred every 20 years now happening every five. Bangladesh is as Navai puts it ‘on the front line of climate change’.
Interviewing the locals, Navai elicits their trust through her direct manner and palpable concern. Struggling around in galoshes helped by barefoot villagers eager to tell their story, she wonders at the expanses of water that were once communities and visits the makeshift shacks in which people have been forced to live.
Although this is only a short programme, it feels in-depth because Navai has doggedly travelled about – visiting an extraordinary village that has been rebuilt on stilts, meeting the poorest of the poor who live on exposed and vulnerable sandbank islands and finally seeing slum dwellers in the country’s capital of Dhaka.
As ever, catastrophe brings out the best and worst in people. The resourcefulness of villagers who have rebuilt their houses out of next to nothing is contrasted with the ruthlessness of those prepared to fight to the death in order to hang on to one small piece of land on a muddy island that could in any case disappear overnight. There are also dark hints that there is corruption in the Bangladesh Water Development Board and allegations that rivers are not being dredged to help the situation.
Beautifully filmed by director Andy Wells, this is above all a documentary where the pictures tell the story. You really feel like kneeling down and kissing Britain’s relative terra firma after 25 minutes in a country where homes, villages and roads are disappearing under dirty water.
Ramita Navai and Andy Wells report from Bangladesh, “on the front line of climate change”. This is a country fast-turning into Waterworld: following last November’s cyclone, 10 million people have been left homeless or been driven into Dhaka’s slums; land disputes are commonplace and murderous; dead bodies pile up in paddy fields. In the village of Kumira, local children will soon lose their school, with water levels rising a foot every year, while in South Khali, villagers clutch their last rations – a packet of biscuits.
The most recent cyclone to hit Bangladesh killed 3,000 people and left millions homeless. As water levels rise and floods become increasingly frequent, even during the dry season, more and more of the country, which has long been at the mercy of swollen oceans, finds itself under siege. Ramita Navai, who’s on the emotional side for a foreign correspondent, travels from the sodden coast, where villages can be submerged for six months of the year, to inland areas where displaced people struggle to exist as the infrastructure around them, such as it is, disintegrates.