About 15 million people in Bangladesh alone could be on the move by 2050 because of climate change causing the worst migration in human history. There is no specific definition for environmental migrants. But the working definition which is now widely accepted across countries asserts that those who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat temporarily or permanently because of marked environmental disruption that jeopardize their existence and seriously affected the quality of their life are identified as environmental migrants.
The People get displaced as temperatures are rising and desertification has set in where rainfall is needed most. They will be on the move since more potent monsoons are making flood prone areas worse. The people will desert their homesteads because they will find their villages under water due to sea-level rise caused by melting glaciers and deadly seepage of saline water into their wells and fields.
The IPCC statistics show the rising sea levels will wipe out more cultivated land in Bangladesh than anywhere in the world. By 2050, rice production is expected to drop 10 percent and wheat production by 30 percent. Expert say the first shift will start within countries. Bangladesh stands to be affected in a number of ways and seemingly from all directions. Scientists see families flocking from rural and coastal areas to cities where livelihoods are less tied to fickle weather patterns. The most obvious impacts of such environmental changes will tax the climate dependent activities in the country such Rangpur, Dinajpur and Gainbanda region basin area. Strong cases of migration were found from the southern region Satkhira, Kuakata, Shoronkhola and Potuakhali district of the country.
The World Bank estimates that mid-century half of all Bengalis will live in urban centers. Nearly 3.5 million people in Dhaka about 40 percent of those live in slums. The next step of migration pattern is across national borders. Military experts predict a downward spiral of violence and conflict as people desperate for food, water and jobs cross into neighboring countries where resources may be only slightly less scarce. In Bangladesh the issues are magnified by the density of the population. If those who are causing the greenhouse gas emissions are unable to control carbon emissions the people in the vulnerable areas many of the coastal areas are going to be inundated. The vulnerable, the uneducated, the lowest of the communities will never be able to migrate to the U.S.A, to Canada, to Australia. There will be pressure on the vulnerable part of Bangladesh. Cities like Dhaka are bursting at the seams. The hardest hit, experts say, will be the families who would not be able to move they are the ones most vulnerable to traffickers and others who prey upon the poorest of the poor.
It is unclear how the government will feed, house or find enough clean water for vast numbers of climate refugees in a country of 150 million people crammed into an area merely 55,500 square miles. Expert think that Bangladesh should change cultivation practices to boost food security, plant large areas of forest in flood prone areas along rivers and the coast and build embankments to cope with the emerging problems.
Abul Kalam Md. Iqbal Faruk ([email protected] ) is an Associate Professor and environmental specialist at the South Point College, and a member of CEESP. This article is based on a long paper available from the author.