Thursday, October 13, 2011

Environmentalist fears millions will migrate into Bangladesh cities in the wake of climate change

SALEEM SAMAD

Environmentalists and NGOs are alarmed to learn that millions of “climate refugees” will be forced to migrate to cities for livelihood and shelter, causing human tragedy in Bangladesh.

Prof. Shayer Ghafur, environmentalist and teacher of state university on engineering and technology told non-government organizations network for urban poor on Thursday that 400,000 people have already begun to reach the including Bangladesh capital Dhaka annually after tidal surge twice inundated in recent years.

Bangladesh vulnerable to global warming and sea level rise is predicted that the coastal region will go 1 meter under the Bay of Bengal and displace 14.8 million people by inundating a 11524 sq. mi area of coastal Bangladesh in the next 40-50 years.

The trek to the cities under extreme weather events as their survival destination would reach staggering proportion, according to International Panel of Climate Change’s (IPCC) fourth assessment report.

Alarmed by sea level rise, the massive influx of climate refugees, who are different from economic migrants, would be arriving in urban habitats, which would baffle the city fathers for coping with the crisis of homelessness caused from population displacement.

The arrival of climate refugees in cities would become am immediate policy concern, regarding project design, implementation and resource mobilization for their shelter and livelihoods. Their arrival will create major impact on scarce shelter and services, livelihood opportunities, and health and education needs, said Prof. Gafur.

In the climate change scenario, the adaptation and mitigation measures need to be expedited, instead of waiting for compensation packages from the rich nations in near future, Khondker Rebaka Sun-yat, chief of Coalition for urban Poor told the seminar.

Meanwhile, prime minister Shiekh Hasina told Washington Post newspaper last Tuesday that Bangladesh has developed a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan as a quick response to an immediate need to address the impacts of climate change.

“It is a cumulative effect of global emission in which Bangladesh does not have any role,” Hasina quipped. Obviously the responsibility lies with the global community to address the issue urgently, as it is not possible for Bangladesh alone to take action against rising sea level.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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