Dhaka Courier

Population and Environmental Displacement in Bangladesh

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Growth of population is the main cause of environmental poverty, pollution, desertification, deforestation, intensive cultivation and other climatic issues. Worldwide, climate change is destroying livelihoods, infrastructure and communities, forcing people from their homes, towns and even countries. In 2016 alone, extreme weather-related disasters displaced around 23.5 million people. This does not include the people forced to flee their homes as a consequence of slow-onset environmental degradation, such as droughts, sea level rise and melting permafrost. Bangladesh is on the frontline of these impacts. Bangladesh is the 9th most populous country in the world.  Population density implies as the number of persons per sq. km which is 1251 now in our country. Population growth rate is 1.17%, total population 170 million, Birth’s per day 1706, Death’s per day 473. Unexpected intensification of population and climatic hazards leads environmental displacement.

Setting the Scene

In 2000, the world population had reached 6 billion and in 2010, it was 7 billion, by 2015, it will be 8 billion and it will reach 9 billion within 2050. Over 90% of this growth will be in developing countries. Of course there will be increased demand for food and for all other necessities of life. When this demand exceeds the sustainable production of agricultural lands, forests and aquatic regimes, the resource base itself will be eroded. Although the growth rate of population in Bangladesh is seen to be falling, its size is already large. Projections of Population with density of Bangladesh are:

Year

Population

Density (Km2 )

2020

170,466,782

1309

2025

179,063,375

1375

2030

186,459,898

1432

2035

192,500,115

1478

2040

197,133,813

1514

2045

200,380,556

1539

2050

202,209,053

1553

Source: Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, UN, 2016

The rapid increase of population in the urban areas is changing the scenario of housing, sanitation, water, energy and living condition. They live in slums under unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. As they do not have enough sewerage systems and garbage disposal facilities, the wastes generated by their day to day living only help pollute their environment and nature.

Displacement: Environmental and Man made

Environmental displacement is alarming for Bangladesh. The factors can be either natural or anthropogenic. Floods, severe cyclones, water logging, salinity intrusions, droughts and river bank erosion which induce mass population displacement. By the year of 2020, 78 million people can be displaced.

On the other hand, displacement can be in such ways− vested property act, migration politics, demographic engineering, ethnic conflict, anti agricultural product pricing system, political influence of rent-seekers.

Global Context of Displacement and Bangladesh

World Bank predicts, 1 meter rise in the sea level will inundate 20% of its coastal region leaving 25 to 30 million people without home, without jobs. As per World Bank’s “South Asians Hotspot Published in September 2018” more than 3/4 quarters or 134 million out of 165 million population of Bangladesh or 82% are at risk of declining living standards as a result of erratic climate change, rising temperature could affect living standards in diverse way. Top among these are fall in agricultural and labor productivity and rise in spread of vector borne and other infectious diseases resulting in lost productivity and income.

Disaster Displacement platform clarifies the human mobility-displacement, migration and planned relocation-in the context of both sudden-onset disasters like tropical cyclones, tidal bore, tsunami, earthquake, landslide and volcanic eruption, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also explores slow-onset events and processes like sea level rise, river erosion, salinity, flood, droughts, many of which is inter-related and are results of environmental degradation due to climate change. The theme of the platform on disaster displacement in 2019 is “Striving together for addressing displacement due to slow and sudden-onset disasters”

Climate Change and Displacement

Climate change is indeed, one of the most serious challenges that humanity have ever faced. As per Climate Vulnerability Monitor, climate change causes 4,00,000 death each year and climate related losses accumulated to 1-2 trillion or 1.6% of the global GDP in 2010. Such loss is expected to increase rapidly reaching 6 million death and 3.2% of GDP in net average by 2030 as per CVM. The modest achievements of developing countries, particularly of LDCs might vanquish in the blink of eyes by a sweep of cyclone, flood or land erosion. In addition such havoc is likely to create ‘environmental refugees’ or ‘climate migrants’.

The decline in living standards as a result of changes in average weather could cost a loss of 6.7% or 171 billion of Bangladesh’s GDP by 2050 unless actions are taken to reduce emissions and global annual average temperature increase. In fact, cost of inaction will be highest for the severely affected regions, amounting to 59 billion or 14.4% loss in GDP by 2050. If the current trend is not reversed, then nearly 800 million people of South Asia will be affected and if corrective actions are taken, then around 370 million would be affected. As per World Bank report, in Bangladesh, Barisal, Khulna, Dhaka, Rajshahi and Mymensingh Divisions will be affected badly. In 2017 when flash flood inundated the Haor area, 75% of its crop was inundated resulting in loss of 22 lakh tons of rice, 11 lakh 35 thousand families were affected, 2 thousand tons of fish and 30 thousand ducks were killed. In fact, loss was estimated at Tk, 13,000 crore or $ 1.5 billion.

As per Climate Risk Index of German Watch during 2000-2011, nearly 70 million people of Bangladesh were affected by erratic climate disaster costing BDT 50,000 crore or $ 6 billion. This means due to climate disasters, Bangladesh losses 4000 crore or 500 million a year. In fact, owing to climate disaster, nation’s GDP is negatively affected on average by 1.8%.

Capacities of Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD)

As natural disasters are occurring more frequently with higher ferocity and intensity, and causing forcible displacement of people, the platform on disaster displacement analyses the best protection capacities for displaced persons and persons at risk through effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in national, regional and international levels.

The Platform on Disaster Displacement is a state-led initiative launched by the governments of Bangladesh and Germany as a successor to the Nansen Initiative during the World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul in May, 2016. It has a steering group composed of 17 states and the European Union, and an advisory committee with over 100 organizations and experts from around the world. The main objective of the platform is to strengthen the protection of displaced people across borders in the context of disasters, including those associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

Concluding Remarks

As Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate vulnerability, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been taken actions to live with climate change. She adopted “Climate Change Strategies & Action Plan” as early as 2009. She also involved communities and created 6000 well trained volunteers and erected nearly 3,800 cyclone Shelters. Our country erected embankments to nearly 70-80% of coastal areas and arrange irrigation facility in 80% of its cultivable areas. We develop flood resistant salinity resilient crops to adopt and live with climate change for sustainable economic development.

The Writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.

  • Population and Environmental Displacement in Bangladesh
  • Issue 38
  • Shishir Reza
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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