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Report: Declining farm output creating new migration crisis in Bangladesh

  • Published at 12:49 am January 27th, 2019
Planting rice
Farmers produce 19.5 million metric tons of rice a year Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The USGAO report focused on global climate change impact on migration

Decreased yields from agriculture and fisheries sectors have contributed in creating a new migration crisis for Bangladesh’s coastal cities, which face their own climate change challenges, according to a report by the United States Government Accountability Office (USGAO).

The report, titled “Climate Change: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration,” published in mid January, focused on global climate change impact on migration. 

The Bangladesh chapter of the 70-page report puts together findings by various organizations including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Bangladesh’s high population density and geography make the country susceptible to the effects of climate change, according to the World Bank, and others. 

Bangladesh’s coasts and river banks are vulnerable to sudden-onset events such as tropical cyclones and flooding, the report states, projecting the effect of climate change based on observations.

Recalling devastating cyclone Aila in 2009, it says, millions of people living in the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh were impacted in widespread flooding caused by Aila. 

Tropical Cyclone Mora in 2017 damaged thousands of homes and displaced an estimated 2,00,000 people. 

Bangladesh also experiences many slow-onset climate change events, such as rising sea levels and increasingly severe droughts.

Bangladesh would lose an estimated 17.5% of its land if the sea level rose one meter, as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported.

Projected changes in precipitation levels could cause drought and food insecurity in the northwest, and salt-water intrusion could reduce crop yields in the southwest, the report predicts.

Addressing migration trends in Bangladesh, it says migration is a common adaptation strategy to climate change in the country.

Citing examples from an ADB report, the report says some farmers have adapted to salt water intrusion and destroyed crops, by switching to salt-tolerant rice production or shrimp cultivation.  Others have migrated, often to Bangladesh’s cities to find work less dependent on agriculture. 

The capital city, Dhaka, is a common destination for migrants displaced by salt-water intrusion, flooding, and river erosion, according to IOM. 

Bangladeshis also provide a significant number of labor migrants to the Gulf States and Malaysia. Remittances from international migrants represent 5.4% of the country’s GDP, and may help to support resilience to climate change, according to IOM, and others. 

These migration trends may intensify in the future. One study estimates 9.6 million people will migrate from 2011 to 2050 due to the effects of climate change, it says.

Addressing challenges in stability and security, the report states, migration due to climate change is cited as a potential destabilizing factor in Bangladesh by ADB, and others.