ASSAM - Doorheen de heuvelachtige provincie Assam in India stroomt de Brahamaputa. Deze immense rivier ontspringt in het Himalayagebergte en is bezaaid met zandbanken. Op deze zandbanken - ook wel ‘Chars' genoemd - wonen 2 miljoen mensen.
Generations ago, Bengali migrants found a nomadic existence on the Chars. Today, their lifestyle is under threat. Global warming is washing away entire sandbanks, including schools and hospitals. And basically the entire identity of the Chars community.
Indeed, the Hindu government requires the nomadic inhabitants of the Chars to prove their identity. This can be done by presenting the right papers, but structural illiteracy and the transience of their property make this a major problem for the Chars residents. Property papers are often the only way to prove where they come from. So people flee from the rising waters, but at the same time are obliged to continue paying taxes on land that has long since been swallowed by the water. Otherwise, they do not exist on paper.
Due to years of isolation, people on the mainland regard the people of the chars as inferior. This excludes them not only socially but also economically. The Chars' young girls therefore try to marry a mainland boy at a young age in search of a better future. Even if that means committing to a boy from a population group that rejects them.
Local journalist Chandrani Sinha is very familiar with the issue. She has been writing about it since 2016. She recounts actual human stories and highlights all sides of the problem. Reportage maker Levi Vanderaerden joins Chandrani in searching for that identity of the Char residents. They examine the extent of the impact of global warming there and the social and economic problems it brings.
De Chars, Vranckx & De Nomaden, VRT/Canvas, 29/10/2022.
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