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Sea level rise may force 200,000 to migrate

  • Published at 11:17 am October 24th, 2018
web-Karnaphuli-River
Birds eye view of a portion of the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong Wikimedia Commons file photo

‘The most vulnerable households may be the least resilient in the face of climate change’

A new study shows that continual rise in the sea level is likely to force migration in the coastal regions of Bangladesh.

The International Food Policy Research Institute's Valerie Mueller,who is also an assistant professorat Arizona State University,and Ohio State University's Joyce Chen,co-authored a study named"Coastal Climate Change, Soil Salinity, and Human Migration in Bangladesh" which will be published in an upcoming edition of the journalNature Climate Change, reports UNB.

The study examines, for the first time, the complex relationship between flooding, soil salinity, rural livelihood and migration, as well as the probable adaptation strategies, said a press release on Tuesday.

According to the study, increased soil salinity from rising seas will push nearly 140,000 coastal residents to migrate to another location within their district, and nearly 60,000 tomove to alternate districts.

It shows only a few are likely to migrate to northern areas, while most migrants are likely to enter the capital city of Dhaka, oronward to neighbouring districts in the coastal region.

The primary concern of increased salinity is the adverse impacts on crop production and income, whichwill drive those who rely on it for their livelihood to migrate from coastal to inland areas.

"Financial constraints limit poor households from moving over longer distances, signaling a trapped population dynamic, raising concerns that the most vulnerable households may be the least resilient in the face of climate change" says Chen.

"To minimize moving costs, and remain close to family, individuals may move inland where the demand for agricultural labor is relatively unaffected by salinity. However, higher wages and denser labor markets may draw workers instead to urban areas" says Mueller.

Studies show that with three of the country's five largest cities in the saline belt, migration may not reduce vulnerability to sea level rise in the long run. In another 120 years, coastal areas, currently home to 1.3 billion people, are projected to be overwhelmed by sea level rise

"A two-pronged approach will be necessary to address this growing concern," Mueller points out.

Researchers point out that infrastructure projects such as embankments and polders may have more limited success; saline contamination increases pressure to increase aquaculture which, in turn, increases the demand for brackish water, making households reluctant to maintain such infrastructure.