Most parts of South Asia are both highly populated and highly exposed to impacts of climate change. Bangladesh is one of those areas that receives the utmost attention because of climate risks and climate migration. It is expected that about 15 million people from Bangladesh only could be on the move by 2050 because of climate migration.
The Ganges–Brahmaputra Delta has long been identified as one of the hot spots of climate change effects in this region, as it is a particularly low-lying and therefore vulnerable coastal zone.
Internal migration has already been observed in Bangladesh; large populations are already being displaced or have decided to migrate due to cyclones and riverbank erosion. Strong cases of migration were found from the southern region Satkhira, Kuakata, Shoronkhola, and Potuakhali district of the country. Climate change is also likely to increase migration out of the western and southern districts of Bangladesh, which is prone to drought and to floods and cyclones.
Floods and tropical storms are major reasons for internal migration in Bangladesh. There is also evidence that abrupt, short-range population movement can, at least indirectly, also influence longer-range migration through the demographic changes that it causes. Therefore, a multiplicity of climatic drivers has a drastic impact on livelihoods in Bangladesh.
Soil and water salinization and riverbank erosions are some of the other r major causes for migration in Bangladesh, which put an additional strain on people’s livelihoods and physical health. Among the drivers of migration are also tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, which could increase in intensity by 2050 due to climate change under a business-as-usual scenario.
In a 4°C world, a sea level rise of 62 cm by 2080 could result in a loss of 13% of Bangladesh’s coastal land area and lead to flooding of 20% more land than currently.
Even, a 15 cm sea level rise by 2030 would lead to 3% of land loss and 6% of total flooded area increase. Sea level rise will likely increase the risk of health hazards, mostly diarrhea and cholera. Cholera germs find a more favorable habitat and are spreading in the coastal area.
Vibrio cholera is the causing microbe of cholera. It survives longer with salinity level of the water ranging from 2.5 ppt to 30 ppt. Thus, sea level rise, by increasing flood risk, increases the risk of cholera outbreak too. Increasing salinity levels also lead to increased incidences of hypertension in the coastal areas. This is a major problem for expecting women and can even cause involuntary fetus abortion.
Increased average temperatures could prolong peak periods for vector-borne diseases, and extreme weather events, including cyclones and floods, may cause explosive outbreaks.
Internal migration can moreover lead to increases in communicable diseases and poor nutritional status resulting from overcrowding, as well as a lack of safe water, food, and shelter. In Bangladesh, like other effects on health; population displacement may create conditions conducive to outbreaks of infectious diseases; further increasing the potential for transmission of vector-borne disease and hindering the future control of a disease.
However, climate migration in Bangladesh has no clear jurisdiction so far s, however, its progress will be the next challenges for the government. Still, it is unclear how the government will feed, house or find enough clean water for vast numbers of climate refugees in a country of 163 million people crammed into an area merely 56,977 mi² areas.
Bangladesh should change it’s cultivation practices in order to boost food security, as well as plant large areas of forest in flood-prone areas along rivers and the coast and build embankments to cope with the emerging problems. However, climate change now poses a significant risk to human health, even if strong mitigation actions are taken globally. Adaptation measures will be needed in the coming decades to buffer at least some of the significant effects on human health to be expected.
About the author:
*Zulker Naeen is a South Asian Fellow at Climate Tracker. He is also a communication graduate of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB),
e-mail: [email protected]