Migration to escalate uncontrollably in South Asia. In 2016 people in South Asia are suffering devastations due to extreme weather and people are on the move like never before. In May 2016, Cyclone Roanu ripped through Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh causing widespread damage and leaving in its wake reconstruction costs estimated at $1.7 billion
These are the analysis of a new report titled “Climate Change Knows No Borders” polished on Thursday globally.
Study shows, climate induced displacement and migration are a regular and increasing phenomenon in Bangladesh. During 2010-11, Asia and the Pacific saw more than 42 million people displaced by extreme weather events. By 2050, 15 million people in Bangladesh alone could be displaced by climate change. Climate-induced migration and displacement is therefore becoming a key emerging area in climate discourse.
This study has been done by ActionAid, Climate Action Network South Asia and Bread for the World. Based on this report, these major three international organisations warn of the devastating and increasing impact of climate change on migration as policy makers converge on Bangladesh for the Global Forum on Migration and Development tomorrow.
While the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) anticipates climate change impacts will be felt even more severely in future years, political disputes and cross-border fighting often characterise the reaction to migration across the region more than active solutions and problem-solving.
Addressing the report, Farah Kabir, Country Director ActionAid Bangladesh’s said, “Displacement and forced migration is a real and ever-concerning problem for Bangladesh. And as emissions continue upwards, it’s women and girls living on the frontline of climate related disasters who lose out. There’s an urgent need for women and girls to have access to reliable information on the risks around migration and how women can access support to protect themselves.”
In April 2016 temperatures reached a record-breaking 51 degrees in Rajasthan, India. And across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, 2015-16 brought with it extended drought and crop failure, affecting 330 million people in India alone and many more across the region.
Report shows, migration is taking place as a result of crop failure, rising sea levels and flooding all caused by climate change. In some cases this is exacerbated by trans-boundary water management issues. Sudden events such as cyclones and flooding can lead to temporary displacement. However if these events happen repeatedly, people lose their savings and assets, and may eventually be forced to move to cities or abroad to find work.
In some communities in Bangladesh, women face social pressure not to leave the house, making life incredibly difficult if their husbands have left to find work. In other areas, women report much higher exposure to assault and violence.
Report shows, policies are currently failing to understand the scale and impact of migration on women, and are failing to address emerging issues. Promotion of women’s empowerment, as well as women-led planning and disaster response, must be part of the solution.
The need for South Asian governments to monitor the specific impact of climate migration on women and girls is highlighted as a key concern for the region to address. The report outlines the growing and alarming trend of women and girls trafficked into sexual exploitation as a result of migration, as well as the burden placed upon women at home whose husbands are forced to migrate.
Sanjay Vashist, Climate Action Network South Asia’s Director, said, “The governments of South Asia must recognise that climate change knows no borders. Governments have a responsibility to use our shared mountains, rivers, history and cultures to seek common solutions to the droughts, sea-level rise and water shortages that the region is increasingly experiencing. We urgently need more cross-border efforts to help people cope with the new normal of climate disasters and protect people who are forced to migrate.”
The Warsaw International Mechanism, established in 2013 at the UN and affirmed by the last round of climate talks at Paris last year, does seek to address climate-induced displacement and migration. However, little has yet been secured to protect the rights of people displaced by climate change, leaving their international legal status uncertain and not akin to the rights of people fleeing conflict who have in some cases similarly lost their homes, families and jobs.
Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International’s Climate Policy Manager, said, “The governments of South Asia have a huge opportunity to show other regions how using the UN’s Warsaw International Mechanism effectively could mean climate change doesn’t inevitably translate into alarming levels of unsafe migration and conflict over resources. But this must also be supported by rich nations who must not fail to recognise their role in causing the climate crisis. They must step in to help fight the flames in South Asia and elsewhere that they themselves kindled through carbon emissions in the first place.”
This study looks at climate change and its impacts on migration in South Asia, and particularly in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The South Asia region is particularly vulnerable to climate change events. Droughts, heat waves, cyclones, rising sea levels, heavy rainfall, landslides and floods are often felt by two or more neighbouring countries in the region, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) anticipates that these are likely to be felt more severely in future.