In 1974, satellite images from the United States revealed a small island floating in the waters of the Bay of Bengal. This island, approximately 3.5 km long and 3 km wide, had emerged from the alluvial deposits left behind by the devastating Bhola Cyclone in 1970, which claimed the lives of half a million people in the Sundarbans delta region. The island was situated 1.2 miles from the mouth of the Hariabhanga River, marking the boundary between India and Bangladesh.
Upon its emergence, India promptly claimed the island as part of its territory, citing the flow of the Hariabhanga River to the east of the island and naming it New Moore Island. However, Bangladesh also laid claim to the island, naming it South Talpatti Island, arguing that the river’s flow was westward from the island.
The dispute over the island reached its peak in 1981. India dispatched its warships to the island for oceanographic surveys, triggering strong protests from Bangladesh. Massive demonstrations erupted in Dhaka, escalating tensions between the two nations. Despite attempts to negotiate a peaceful resolution, both countries remained steadfast in their claims. Economic interests, especially access to the oil and gas resources in the Bay of Bengal, further fueled the conflict.
Negotiations continued until 2008, when the United Nations set a deadline for India and Bangladesh to make their final claims over the island. However, before this deadline could arrive, the island disappeared beneath the waters due to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
Although the dispute over the island came to an end, new challenges emerged. Bangladesh’s coastal areas remained threatened by ongoing sea level rise. Meanwhile, the maritime boundary issues between the two countries persisted, highlighting the complexity of their relationship in the region.
The dispute over the lost island eventually became a symbol of the impacts of climate change and the political complexities in the Bay of Bengal region. It served as a reminder to the world about the importance of collective environmental action and international cooperation in maintaining peace and stability.