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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 70
May 31 , 2008

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Reviewing the views

Linking migration with environment
Global warming vs. climate change: Some confusion revisited

Adnan Sirajee

During the 20th century, sea level had risen by 10-20 centimeters, on average. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forcasts that, by 2050, they would have risen by the same amount as a result of global warming. The same report asserts that an 89cm increase in the sea level would eat up roughly 20% of Bangladesh's landmass, displacing more than 20 million people. The average world temperature is expected to rise by 2oC. This has major trickle down effect on the sea water temperature resulting in intensity and frequency of natural calamities in future.

What is the migration trend from an environmental perspective in Bangladesh?
No in depth study has been carried out on the vulnerability assessment for environmental degradation. The conventional practice suggests areas prone to floods and other natural calamities such as cyclone, river bank erosion and desertification of soil, experience maximum number of migration outflows. In this regard, the basin area of major river networks and the costal region are the most vulnerable segment for environmental degradation. Most migrants originate from the erosion and flood prone areas of the northern part of Bangladesh.

Are Climate Change and Global Warming synonyms?
Much has been said and discussed on these issues, and yet common misconception arise. To begin with, global warming and climate change are not the same but one can not deal with them separately. Global warming can be reduced to a series of macro events (global phenomenon), while climate change is mostly confined with micro impacts (country specific phenomenon). The ongoing debate on their differences in characteristics is therefore trivial, as the end result is always intertwined with one another.

How does Climate Change and Global Warming affect Bangladesh?
The geographical position of Bangladesh makes it prone to all sorts of geophysical events (floods, river bank erosions, storms and cyclones). The process of environmental degradation only intensifies the effect. With or without climate change, Bangladesh would face these difficulties. The recent SIDR surges, two consecutive floods in the same year, variation of seasons, gradual decline in agricultural production and increased frequency of natural calamities further strengthens this notion.

What is the link between environment and migration?
Migration, due to unfavorable environmental degradation in the past, sometimes caused a village to pack up their relatively few belongings and move to a better area. In contrast, migration today is a more complex phenomenon that involves major restructuring and adjustment process. The reason is straight forward and simple-we have massive societal, agricultural and industrial infrastructure in place, which cannot be easily moved. Lack of land, constant degradation of soil, seasonal floods and economic hardships have shaped the better half of migration dynamics and caused a good number to move and live in extremely vulnerable areas. Environment degradation causes occupational dislocations along with demographics.

Who are environmental migrants?
There is no specific definition for environmental migrants. But the working definition, which is now widely accepted across countries asserts that those who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat temporarily or permanently because of marked environmental disruption that jeopardize their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life are identified as environmental migrants.

What are the environmental anxieties for Bangladesh?
Bangladesh stands to be affected in a number of ways and seemingly from all directions. Global warming effects include changes in temperature, sea-level rise, and increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The most obvious impacts of such environmental changes will tax the climate dependant activities in the country such (Rangpur, Dinajpur, Gainbanda) region (G-B-M basin area). Also, strong cases of migration were found from the southern region (Kuakata, Shoronkhola, Potuakhali etc.) of the country.

What are the driving factors of environmental migration?
Low productivity of crops; food insecurity after flood; lack of safe drinking water; lack of infrastructure; inadequate health services; job insecurity; land erosion; no land tenure rights; destruction of home and agrarian land and salination of land influence people to migrate.

What are the future challenges?
As global warming is induced by developed and some newly industrialized countries and the aftermath is usually observed in some other countries, it is very difficult to point to one nation and ask for compensation. Currently, there is no framework under which such compensation programme can be practiced. The global initiatives and regional dialogues have not been able to come up with sustainable long term solution to address the problem.

Source: Migration Update, IOM MRF Dhaka Newsletter.


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