BOMSA is mainly focused on external migration for economic purposes- women leaving Bangladesh for work in order to supplement their income. As such, all of the work that I have been exposed to concerns this form of migration. However, it is impossible to ignore the rampant internal migration within the country, specifically that which is heavily influenced by climate change, and the subsequent problems that it accompanies. A few weeks ago, I met a woman who had written her PhD thesis on this topic, which sparked my interest in further researching it.
Climate-change induced migration describes those who are forced to leave their homes temporarily or permanently due to environmental circumstances that jeopardize their existence or seriously affect their quality of life negatively. Climate-change induced migration disproportionately affects the poor, which adds significant burden to a demographic already struggling, as climate shocks often increase existing problems. Further, this contributes to the rapid urbanization taking place in certain areas of Bangladesh, which cannot meet the demand in capacity to adequately provide access to sanitation, health, education, and employment. There are about 35 million people that live on the coastlines of Bangladesh, which make them the frontline victims of climate change. If the sea level were to rise by one metre, this would affect roughly 15 million people within this cohort. Many of these individuals will have no choice but to migrate while their homes are destroyed.
Moreover, roughly 63% of Bangladesh’s population is employed in either agriculture, forestry, or fisheries, which are heavily affected by environmental conditions and access to natural resources. With the increase of climate disasters, survival in certain parts of Bangladesh has become increasingly difficult and expensive. These areas of Bangladesh are densely populated and experience coastal flooding, river erosion, and saltwater intrusion. Extreme climate damages shelter, affects livelihoods, decreases access to safe water, and weakens embankments for coastal defense. This is a problem very large in nature, and as such, it is difficult for the government and civil society to address it without appropriate resources and support.
As with any migration, the question of choice always comes into play. When is migration a choice, and when is it forced upon individuals? For climate change induced migration, do people choose to leave their homes? While there are many cases in which people do choose to stay in adverse conditions, despite the increasingly challenging circumstances presented to them, it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which a choice is available. When choosing between a familiar place with near impossible living conditions and an unfamiliar new life plagued with uncertainty, where is the choice, really?
Ahsan, SM Reazul ‘Climate Induced Migration: Lessons from Bangladesh’ 2014
Kartiki, Katha ‘Climate change and migration: a case study from rural Bangladesh’ 2011