Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Bangladesh: Climate Change Migrants On The Front Line

Posted by hetty7 on December 17, 2010

bangladesh climate change migrant

This article is from ekantipur.com.

In Dhaka half a million immigrants arrive in the city each year.  This article gives a brief picture of their lives.

The Climate Change Migrants

ABIR ABDULLAH

December 4 2010 – Nature has never made it easy to live in Bangladesh.  The country is situated in the low-lying Ganges Delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. Most of the land is less than 10 metres above sea level. It is a country swamped by annual floods, with a coast battered by cyclones and tornadoes, yet an interior subject to drought at times. With nearly 150 million inhabitants, Bangladesh is also the most densely-populated country on the planet. As warnings about climate change grow in intensity, Bangladesh is forecast as the scene of increasing numbers of climate migrants .

In low-lying areas, it is not unusual to be knee-deep in water during the flood season – some local crops, such as rice, depend on rising waters. But floods are becoming more extreme and unpredictable. Crops have been totally destroyed; livestock lost

Houses made from bamboo, straw and corrugated iron – made to be portable when the floods come – have been totally washed away.  People have been forced to tear down their houses and move dozens of times as waters rise ever higher , and when they return after the waters recede, they find their former land has been swept away completely. People have begun crowding onto less and less land, and disputes are increasing.

Local sea levels in Bangladesh do appear to be rising, while summer temperatures are climbing as well. People in some coastal areas have already switched from cultivating rice to farming prawns, as their paddy crops turn too salty.

Weather seems to be growing more extreme and erratic. In 2004, tides in estuaries stopped ebbing and flowing – the waters simply stayed at high tide. In 2005, the country had no winter, with serious consequences for its potato crop. The direction of the monsoon had changed – it now advances west instead of north across the country. In the northwest, the monsoon failed entirely in 2006, causing a severe drought, while 2007 saw a tornado occur months out of season.

As yet there have not been sufficient in-depth studies to prove that these phenomena are a direct result of global warming, but they do indicate the effects that climate change would have on Bangladesh.  A country where many people have never driven a car, used an air-conditioner, or done much at all to increase carbon emissions, could well end up fighting climate change on the front line.

Abdullah is a Bangladeshi photo-journalist, based in Dhaka

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