Friday, October 14, 2011

Environmentalist fears climate change will push millions of Bangladeshis into cities

SALEEM SAMAD

ENVIRONMENTALISTS AND international aid agencies are alarmed by forecasts that millions of “climate refugees” will be forced to migrate to cities for livelihood and shelter, causing human tragedy in Bangladesh.

Shayer Ghafur, an environmentalist and professor of engineering and technology, told a non-governmental organizations network for urban poor on Thursday that 400,000 people have already begun to migrate to the Bangladesh capital Dhaka annually after tidal surge twice inundated the coast in recent years.

Bangladesh is vulnerable to global warming and the sea level is predicted to rise along its coastline at the Bay of Bengal by one meter in the next 40 years. If that happens, 14.8 million people living along 11,500 square miles of the coastal region would be displaced.

The trek to the cities under extreme weather events would reach staggering proportion, according to the fourth annual report of the International Panel of Climate Change.

The arrival of climate refugees in cities would raise immediate policy concerns about project design, implementation and resource mobilization for their shelter and livelihoods. The influx would create major impacts on scarce shelter and services, livelihood opportunities, and health and education needs, said Ghafur.

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

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina told the Washington Post newspaper 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 impossible for Bangladesh alone to take action against the rising sea level, as it has been a cumulative effect of global emission in which Bangladesh does not have any role," she said. "It is the responsibility of global community to address this issue as urgently as possible."

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