Asia - Pacific, Environment

Bangladesh faces major development challenge amid climate migration

According to official data, 6M climate migrants live in Bangladesh, with majority forced into poverty, homelessness

Md. Kamruzzaman   | 30.12.2021
Bangladesh faces major development challenge amid climate migration

DHAKA, Bangladesh

With the changing climate uprooting more and more people, Bangladesh has been face to face with the difficult challenge of fostering decent living conditions for the migrants, even as it continues to pursue socio-economic development, according to experts and migrants.

"If one part of the population leads a comfortable life, while another part is forced to live in poverty or extreme poverty ... this isn't real development. We must move forward in a balanced way," Md. Shakhawat Hossain, associate professor of Disaster Science and Management at Dhaka University, told Anadolu Agency.

According to official records, there are currently six million climate migrants in the South Asian delta nation of 170 million people.

Many of them have been struggling amid destitute conditions, with the majority being economically weak and holding no property, living in various slums, low-income areas, or on the streets.

Analysts say the Bangladeshi government must pay attention to the living conditions that climate migrants suffer.

"The government must address the crisis of such a large number of climate migrants to achieve its goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2030 and a developed nation by 2041," said Hossain.

Migrating to urban areas

A large number of climate migrants lost their former homes to riverbank erosion, said Hossain, adding that this has forced them instead to flock to already overcrowded urban areas.

"Many of them have lost their homes and properties, and they have no other income sources. As a result, they have migrated to urban areas, particularly to the megacities, including the capital Dhaka, in the hope of earning minimal money for survival, and a great number of them are living on footpaths, different bus and train stations, and slum areas," he explained.

"I had huge cropland and a big house close to the bank of the river Baleshwari," Mohammad Harun Hawlader, 60, a climate migrant in the country's southern coastal district of Barguna, told Anadolu Agency. But the devastating river erosion has deprived me of everything. Now, I'm completely impoverished," he added.

Standing in front of a scenic river, Hawlader remarked: "You, the people, mostly enjoy the seasonal natural beauty of the river, but we know the ghostly course of it."

"During the catastrophic cyclone Sidr in 2007, I lost my mother, along with seven other family members, and all my land properties and dwelling house were swallowed by the giant river," he said, adding that hundreds of others like him from his locality are now homeless due to river erosion, many having migrated to Dhaka and other cities and towns.

Underlining that rising sea levels due to climate change pose a major threat, Bangladeshi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam warned in recent international talks that climate change was costing the country 1% of its GDP every year.

"By 2050, rising sea levels will submerge some 17% of Bangladesh's coastal lands and displace about 20 million people," Alam said, emphasizing the country's ranking as the seventh riskiest nation in the Global Climate Risk Index 2020.

Decentralization

According to Hossain, Bangladeshi authorities must decentralize opportunities for livelihoods and other needs to cover climate migrants.

He also emphasized the necessity for more research on disaster risk reduction, as well as to ensure quality education for everyone, including migrants, to build a climate-resilient nation.

Some migrants, like Mohammad Shahjahan, argue that to become a developed nation, Bangladesh would need to first improve the conditions of those uprooted by climate change, enabling them to contribute to the economy.

Shahjahan, a resident of Dhaka's largest slum Korail Bastee, told Anadolu Agency that he came from the northern district of Tangail after losing his home and land in the erosion of Jamuna River nearly a decade ago.

He works as a petty shopkeeper in the slums, struggling to make a living with his four children.

"We see stories of development and progress on television and in newspapers. But, what do I have?" Shahjahan asked.

After losing everything in the river erosion and other natural disasters, thousands of destitute people have migrated to Dhaka and are now living in this slum with him. "If I'm poor, I have no interest in the development of the country," Shahjahan asserted angrily.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has called upon major carbon-emitting countries to help rehabilitate migrants displaced from their homes and livelihoods due to climate change.

The minister made the appeal while addressing a meeting of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in the Dutch city of Rotterdam in September.

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