Climate-induced migration in Bangladesh has been projected to surpass the total number of all other reasons for internal migration in the country by 2050.
The World Bank (WB) has provided the estimation in its latest report “Groundswell: Acting on internal climate migration” published on September 13. This is the second report in this report series.
According to the report, 13.3 million people could migrate in the country by 2050 due to climatic reasons. This is 37 per cent of the total projected climate-induced migrants in the South Asia region, which will see 37.5 million climate-induced migrants.
However, the WB estimates that the number of migrations in this region can be cut by 40 per cent (14.6 million) to 50 per cent (18.8 million) by taking appropriate actions.
The organisation also expressed doubt over sustained development gains and lessening climate change impacts on highly densely-populated vulnerable areas.
Considering the population of the region, experts said Bangladesh is becoming one of the worst victims of climatic change.
“There is a very valid reason for expressing this kind of doubt as there is no comprehensive action plan to address climate-related migration. Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change also for its population density,” M Zakir Hossain Khan, honorary executive director of Change Initiatives, told The Business Post.
“To address the migration issues, places of destination, reasons behind the migration and the percentage of migrating people of the population of an area are very important. Local-level community engagement is a must to know factors like kinship relations and the economic integration of migrants in a new destination. There is a lack of a comprehensive action plan for addressing all these factors,” he added.
He suggested establishing numerous townships all over the country considering the needs of migrants and their livelihood. Along with this, there is an urgent need to establish a complete mechanism for understanding the losses and damages the migrants are experiencing, said the climate expert.
The report also mentioned that both economic and environmental factors are driving people to major cities whereas Dhaka is already facing a challenge of absorbing influxes of migrants.
“Around 5 per cent of the population of Bangladesh displaced in the last five years. No agency has a complete picture of where they are migrating from and how they will manage their livelihood at their destinations,” said Dr Tasneem Siddique, chair of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Units (RMMRU).
A recent study of RMMRU found the climatic events, such as cyclone, flood, river erosion, is the sixth-largest reason for internal displacement in the country. However, the World Bank estimation puts climatic reason to be the biggest reason for migration. Not only the biggest, but it also projected climate-induced migration would surpass the combined migration from all other reasons.
“The reasons for migration are related to climatic events. Some people are migrating due to floods, river erosion, cyclone — which have intensified and getting prolonged due to climate change. Amphan alone displaced 2.5 million people from coastal areas. A 60 per cent of those migrants do not realise that they were forced to migrate by climatic factors,” she said.
Covid-19 pandemic restricted migration from at-risk areas. Exemplifying Amphan, a cyclone that hit coastal areas of Bangladesh and India in 2020, the report said people were unable to leave at-risk areas due to pandemic-related mobility restrictions. For instance, evacuation plans in response to Amphan were affected due to these restrictions, the report read.
The report presented four policy recommendations that could reduce the number of people forced to move because of climate change by 80 per cent worldwide.
The report recommended cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to reduce climate pressures that drive internal climate migration. It suggested embedding internal climate migration in far-sighted green, resilient, and inclusive development planning.
The WB report also advised planning for each phase of migration, so that internal climate migration, as an adaptation strategy, can result in positive development outcomes.
Moreover, countries have been recommended to continue investment in improving the understanding of internal climate migration to inform well-targeted policies.