CLIMATE change could spell disaster for Bahrain and is already causing sea levels to rise at a rate of one cm every 10 years, according to a top weather expert. A five-cm rise in sea levels over the next 50 years would have major consequences for Bahrain's marine life and coastal developments, said World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) West Asia representative Jaser Rabadi.
However, he said the rate could increase and warned the region could be plagued by natural disasters it has never faced before.
"Rapid urbanisation, reclamation and playing with nature are all contributing to this," Mr Rabadi told the GDN yesterday.
"We have to now start realising there has to be a limit to how much liberties we can take with all this."
He said changing weather patterns and rising sea levels could be attributed to climate change in Bahrain and around the world.
"Sea levels are rising, for example, in waters around Bahrain at one cm every 10 years, severely threatening the coastline in the next half a century," he said.
"According to the present rate, a five cm increase in sea levels in the next 50 years could spell disaster.
"We expect the rate to remain the same in the next few years, but it could increase."
He issued the stark warning during a workshop on the role of meteorological and hydrological services in disaster risk reduction.
The two-day event, organised by Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA), in co-operation with the WMO and the United Nations Development Programme, concludes today at Mšvenpick Hotel.
Mr Rabadi said coastal developments and populations were at a high risk from flooding in the future, but added there would be serious consequences for marine life and the people whose livelihoods depended on it - such as fishermen.
"The infrastructure comes later, but the first to suffer would be the fragile ecology and aquatic wealth.
"For populations very heavily dependent on the sea, that paints a grim picture."
Mr Rabadi, who is based in Bahrain, said there was no real threat of a GCC disaster on the scale of the Asian tsunami at the end of 2004.
However, he said such events were never easy to predict.
"Bam, in Iran, is not even in an earthquake-prone zone, but a disaster there killed thousands in 2003.
"We never know what nature will inflict on us and when. The least we could do is not to meddle with a natural process."
CAA Under-Secretary Captain Abdulrehman Al Goud opened the workshop, saying the aim was to highlight the role of meteorological services in disaster risk reduction and exchange expertise.
He said Bahrain had contributed $1m (BD378,000) to the finalisation and launch of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.
"The global launch of the report will take place in Bahrain on May 11 and 12, before the second session of the ISDR Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction scheduled between June 15 and 19 in Geneva," he said.
He hoped Bahrain's contribution would stimulate global efforts to reduce the risk of disaster and set an example for other countries in the region.
"At the same time it will provide a vehicle to strengthen commitment and support to disaster risk reduction by other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, particularly those in the GCC," he said.
He highlighted UN figures that show more than two million people died as a result of natural disasters in 30 years.
"The UN's Disaster Risk Reduction: 2007 Global Review cites data sources where records indicate more than 2.3m deaths from disasters between 1975 and 2005.
"At the same time, between 1975 and 2006, 21 disasters each caused more than $10 billion (BD3.78bn) of damage across different parts of the world.
"While the scale of the problem is no doubt enormous, this is a problem that we can and must do something about collectively, and soon."
The report is intended to focus the attention of the world's media and politicians on disaster risks, while strengthening countries' commitment to reducing the loss of life, livelihoods and economic assets through natural disasters.
"It will present a global risk update on emerging disaster and climatic risk patterns and trends - particularly in relationship to poverty and human development - and a comprehensive review of progress by UN member states, regional inter-governmental institutions and civil society organisations in implementing disaster risk reduction measures, within the context of achieving sustainable development goals," he said.
UNDP Bahrain resident representative Syed Aqa, Arab League representative Ashraf Nooruddin and CAA meteorology assistant under-secretary Abdul Majeed Isa also attended the workshop.