Although Dhaka is the world’s second most polluted and 4th least livable city, every day 4000 people migrate to the city. Dhaka is the city of 16 million dwellers and to make the condition worse, more people move here for safer and better lives. So, the question is what causes these people to migrate to the city?
Geographically, Bangladesh is one of the largest deltas and has flat, low-lying landscape. It has a total population of 150 million and 75% of them live in the rural area. Around two third of the population in Bangladesh is engaged in farming and Agro based activity.
As the world is getting warmer, glaciers are melting and as a result sea level is rising. Poor and low-lying countries like Bangladesh are the worst victim of climate change. Due to the effect of climate change, flood is a common scenario in Bangladesh and so is riverbank erosion. Each year around 1.2 million sufferers are displaced because of river erosion and we lost approx. 10,000 hectares of land. The agricultural land is diminishing by 1% on the contrary population is increasing by 1.2% and creating a huge gap between food demand and supply. Devastating floods, High-temperature, salinity intrusion, heavy monsoon downpours, droughts and so on are destroying people’s farming lands and leaving them helpless. As the sea level is rising, traditional farming land is being destroyed due to salinity intrusion.
Tropical cyclone hit frequently and more violently to the coastal areas and riverside areas while drought and heat wave hit the northern part of the country. As a kid, I remember visiting my hometown which is at the northern part of the country each year. We had to cross one of the mighty rivers called Brahmaputra by big ferry. The scenario was full of life. Hundreds of people were fishing, different sizes of boats moving and there were fish markets close by. Two decade later, the scenario has completely changed. That part of the river is almost dead. There is little water underneath a big concrete bridge. All the fishermen and markets are gone and only destroyed riverbank is there. So many people used to fishing on the rivers and now they are forced to migrate and leave the generation old fishing profession.
Mobility is being considered as the adaptation strategy after any natural disaster. For example, after the devastating flood of 1987, 45 million people had to adapt by displacement. As the result of climate change effect, annually 2, 50,000 people have to be displaced. Deltas are the most vulnerable to the rising sea level because of their height. Since Bangladesh is low-lying and close to the Bay of Bengal, it experience coastal inundations. Almost one fourth of country’s population lives on coastal areas. With the rate of present sea level rising, Bangladesh can lose up to 15% of its land, leaving 30 million people as climate refugees. In many international seminars, Bangladesh is addressed as “Adaptation Capital of the World”. People migrate to city as environmental refugee and 40% of the urban people live in slums and unhealthy environment, let alone having a safer and better life.
Climate change will have a lasting negative effect on Shundarbans, world’s largest Mangrove forest as well as a world heritage, by endangering 425 species and affecting the ecosystem. Moreover, as the sea- salt water is entering the river, many species of fish are in danger of extinction.
As Bangladesh government has taken many initiatives to battle climate change effect, there will not be a sustainable outcome unless global warming can be put at bay. The richer and industrial countries harm the global environment by carbon emission. These countries need to come forward to curbing pollution and helping the victim countries financially. As it says- Prevention is better than cure.
University of Dhaka