Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Bangladesh: The Climate Change Migrants

Posted by hetty7 on April 18, 2011

Bangladesh: Poor countries are paying the cost of imperialisms ecological impact.

This article is from

The Climate Change Migrants

Abir Abdullah:

Abir Abdullah is a Bangladeshi photo-journalist, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh

12/04/10: 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 against 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 water rises 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 more extreme and erratic.  In 2004, tides in the estuaries stopped ebbing and flowing – the waters simply stayed high-tide.  In 2005, the country had no winter, with serious consequences for its potato crop. The direction of the monsoon has 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 horrible 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.

One Response to “Bangladesh: The Climate Change Migrants”

  1. Anne said

    Hello and thank you for this article. So-called environmentally induced migration is multi-level problem. According to Essam El-Hinnawi definition form 1985 environmental refugees as those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. The fundamental distinction between `environmental migrants` and `environmental refugees` is a standpoint of contemporsry studies in EDPs.

    According to Bogumil Terminski it seems reasonable to distinguish the general category of environmental migrants from the more specific (subordinate to it) category of environmental refugees.

    Environmental migrants, therefore, are persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees form a specific type of environmental migrant.

    Environmental refugees, therefore, are persons compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character.

    According to Norman Myers environmental refugees are “people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty”.

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