Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

Climate Impact on Migration Processes in the Shyamnagar Region of Bangladesh

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

Climate Impact on Migration Processes in the Shyamnagar Region of Bangladesh

Article excerpt


Bangladesh is almost entirely located on the delta of the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. The area is fertile and densely populated. "The pressure on natural resources is immense and the environmental balance is on the verge of sustainability" (Rafik, Shamsuddin 2011). Climate change provides an additional threat. A minor disturbance such as a tropical cyclone is enough to disrupt the balance in the environment. The consequences in the environmentally extremely vulnerable areas could be catastrophic for the local population. In addition to many fatalities, the key problem is the worsening of the situation or even a permanent loss of the original habitat. If there is no immediate and adequate assistance, which happens in most cases, a massive displacement occurs in the affected area, in the first months after a natural disaster, as the most obvious form of displacement and in response to climate change. The first wave of migration is followed by a wave of economic migrants seeking better chances of livelihood (Mehedi 2010). The phenomenon of forced climate migration is evident in Bangladesh as large numbers of homeless people are displaced when environmental catastrophes occur. In the case of inadequate adaptation measures, a pulse in the existing rural-urban migration flows appears a few weeks after a disaster. After stabilization of the situation, the majority of migrants return back home a few months later and create new homes. Therefore, climate-induced migration cannot have a significant impact on international migration flows. These could be impacted to a greater extent by voluntary climate migrations that have a greater degree of selectivity; however, they are more frequent and lasting. By their nature, they are very similar to economic migrations therefore their existence is questionable even in the most environmentally vulnerable areas, such as Bangladesh.

The article clarifies the difference between economic and climate migration factors and discusses other dilemmas with regard to climate migration within rural-urban migration flows in the Shyamnagar Sub-district which is part of the Shatkira District. The region includes parts of the Sundarbans forest along the border with India in the southwest coastal area of Bangladesh and is extremely vulnerable on sea level rise, tropical cyclones and erosion.


For the study on climate-related migration, which took place between 20 October and 10 November 2012, Bangladesh was chosen as in the literature it is often referred to as an area with an existing climate migration (Black, Kniveton, Skeldon, Coppard, Murata and Schmid-Verkerk 2008, 27-6).

The stability of the environment in Bangladesh is endangered by various consequences of climate change. It also has a very distinctive regional diversity. The southwestern part of the coastal area, a part of which is the Shyamnagar region, is threatened primarily by a rising sea level. Based on previous research it was taken into account that climate migration can only be the result of an extreme weather phenomenon. In the case of the Shyamanagar region, this was a devastating tropical cyclone. The last one, named Aila, affected the wider area of Sundarbans mangrove forest in 2009, especially the Shyamnagar region in the southwest Bangladesh (Mehedi 2010). The Shyamnagar region was chosen as the study area in collaboration with the non-governmental organization Caritas Bangladesh expert staff.

With the logistical and professional support of its associates, a working team was formed that, apart from myself consisted of the Shyamnagar Caritas Center associates and one student from the University in Khulna. The fieldwork was carried out among residents of the most vulnerable villages that were most affected during the Aila.

The survey and interviewing was conducted in the villages of East Kaikhali in the municipality of Kaikhali; Golakhali and Kalinchikoloni in the municipality of Ramjan Nagar; South Kadamtala and Mathurapur in the municipality of Munshiganj; Khutikata, Chuibaria and Karitaspara in the municipality of Padma Pukur; and Lebuburia and Gainbari in the municipality of Gabura, which are most vulnerable to climate change in the Shyamnagar region. …

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