Larissa Saar continues her three part series discussing the implications of climate related displacement, this week discussing how the issue has impacted the people of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a frequent example when it comes to highlighting the dire and very real consequences of climate change and climate change related displacement. This is because it is a country that is particularly prone to experience extreme weather conditions as a result of its flat topography. Bangladesh is relatively low-lying and has vast river deltas, so the population’s high dependence on agriculture directly reveals the consequences of cyclones, floods and storms. A third of Bangladesh’s 165 million inhabitants live along its most vulnerable southern coast and up to a fifth of the country can be flooded at once in the rainy season, according to the National Geographic.
Severe rainfalls in 2017 had a correspondingly severe effect, with 220,000 hectares of rice crops damaged and 80,000 homes destroyed. The rainfalls were directly linked to climate change according to research conducted at the time, and severely restricted the fertility of the land, leaving thousands of people without sustenance in rural areas. There are estimates that up to a third of households in these affected areas moved to cities after 2017, and upwards of 400,000 people move into cities every year. Of the tens of millions of people who are expected to be internally displaced as a result of climate change by 2050, 13 million will be from Bangladesh.
Many will move into slums in the larger cities and work low-income jobs to support themselves and their families that they left behind in the countryside. In the capital Dhaka, around 40% of the population already live in slums, lacking support from the government to build permanent infrastructure, it is difficult to avoid the temporary settlement structures becoming permanent.
The situation is not only problematic in terms of overcrowding in urban areas, it also poses a severe risk for food security overall. This is due to the fact that the internally displaced are moving away from the countryside, leaving the prime agricultural areas behind. The government of Bangladesh has been aware of the situation for several years already and set up the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) in 2009 to prepare rural areas and make them more climate resilient. While the plan also includes a Climate Change Trust Fund of $400 million, for now, at least, it is unclear how this has benefitted the affected population and whether it will effectively alleviate the consequences of extreme weather that comes as a result of climate change.
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Image courtesy of Jayedju149 via Wikicommons