Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-Climate change migrants struggle to eke out a living in Bangladesh
Armed with shovels and baskets, they stand around on the sidewalk of many in Bangladesh’s Dhaka streets every morning waiting to be hired.
Most of them are worn-out looking men and women in dirty and tatty clothes that had once been their own a lifetime ago or secondhand.
Zamila Khatun, one of them, said for about two hours she had been waiting there to get work with the others but unfortunately luck had not shone down on them.
“I think today we are unlikely to be hired,” Khatun, who looked pale and unwell, told Xinhua.
“I never thought in my past life that one day I would have to work as a day labourer and lead such a miserable life here.”
“I don’t want to stay in Dhaka like a street beggar but I have nowhere to go. Who wants to lead a life in a slum?” said Khatun, a middle-aged woman.
Khatun said her husband’s family farm and home in southern Bangladesh’s Satkhira district were obliterated by a powerful cyclone in 2009.
The cyclone Aila formed in the Bay of Bengal battered Bangladesh’s southwestern coast on May 25, 2009, leaving at least 179 people dead and more than 3mn affected in about a dozen districts in coastal areas.
Cyclone Aila was the biggest natural disaster in the delta country after the powerful cyclone Sidr pummeled the country’s southwestern coastal belt on November 15, 2007, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.
Like Khatun, Abdul Gaffar is also a climate change refugee.
Gaffar also told the same painful story that began with rising sea levels, water scarcity, desertification and other climate-induced changes to the environment.
He said leading life in a coastal Bangladesh district is very difficult now as more sea water is drenching the soil, creating a negative impact on food production.
“The intensity of salinity on soil has created a serious threat to the farmers’ efforts to produce rice paddies and other crops.”
With no solutions in sight to combat nature’s fury, Gaffar said he has relocated his family to Dhaka.
Like Gaffar and Khatun, thousands of people every year have been leaving their ancestral homes due to climate-induced rural livelihood losses, a key cause of consequent rural to urban migration which is now almost a common scenario in developing countries like Bangladesh.
Most of these climate refugees are migrating into different slums in Dhaka and neighbouring urban areas.
The country, bordering the Bay of Bengal, has become more vulnerable in recent times to climate change-related problems like cyclones, flooding as its capacity to protect its people and land is feeble.
A new World Bank book titled “Urban Flooding of Greater Dhaka in a Changing Climate: Building Local Resilience to Disaster Risk” and a new report: “Climate and Disaster Resilience of Greater Dhaka Area: A Micro Level Analysis,” launched last month said greater Dhaka needs climate-smart policies and higher investment to improve its resilience to intense rainfall and to prepare for climate change.
“A mega city like Dhaka needs smart investments to meet the demands of a growing population and rapid urbanization in a changing climate. Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptations in planning will help the city improve service delivery and become truly a growth center,” said Christine Kimes, acting country head of the World Bank Bangladesh.
Experts say hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be forced to leave their homes and migrate elsewhere by 2050. Of those, they said, some 30mn climate change refugees are expected to be in Bangladesh, likely the largest number from one place.
Mujibul Haque Munir, policy research coordinator of Equitybd, a platform of right based civil society organizations in Bangladesh, said, about 70 per cent of slum dwellers in Bangladesh’s major towns and cities including Dhaka are climate induced migrants.
He further said dozens of Bangladesh’s coastal districts recorded their highest migration in recent years as extreme weather, floods and droughts forced more people to flee their homes.
Qumrul Islam Chowdhury, chairman of the Forum of Environment Journalist Bangladesh (FEJB), said climate-induced calamities have severely affected rural Bangladesh’s poor people.
They face more severe repercussions from some hazards than other types of migrants because of their poverty.
Against this backdrop, he said there is a dire need for local and international mechanisms now instead of later to support climate induced economic and non-economic losses and their victims.
He stressed the need for a legally binding Paris Protocol which is indispensable for survival for most vulnerable countries’ survival.
“I hope all the major parties including the United States and China will play key roles in the fight against climate change,” said Chowdhury.
Echoing almost view, Jasim Katabi, of Green Belt Trust, said there is a need for more specific programs for rehabilitation and adaptation of climate victims in their specific coastal Bangladeshi districts.