With Dhaka and Chittagong becoming overpopulated, there is a need for secondary cities that could accommodate climate migrants
A number of secondary cities should be identified to host climate induced migrants, and urbanized accordingly, to make them resilient to climate change, experts suggested at a conference on Tuesday.
Experts made the suggestion at the inaugural ceremony of the three-day event, “Annual National Conference on Urban Resilience to Climate Change 2019,” at the Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) On Tuesday.
Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) jointly organized the event.
Since the capital Dhaka and port city Chittagong are already overpopulated where people who have been rendered homeless due to climate change such as cyclones and river erosion have sought refuge, they stressed the need for urbanized cities that are climate resilient.
Experts said Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries. In the long run, people from coastal areas may migrate in large numbers due to the adverse effects of climate change. But the destination of migrants, mostly headed for Dhaka and Chittagong, makes it difficult to keep these cities resilient to climate change.
Associate Prof John I Carruthers, of the department of city and regional planning at Cornell University, USA, presented the keynote paper. To free Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, and Khulna from the pressure of overpopulation, he emphasized the need for a number of secondary cities with adequate facilities which will attract migrants.
Carruthers said: “A number of secondary towns should be identified which could attract and absorb at least a million migrants each.”
He also made a few suggestions on the steps to take in order to build climate resistant urban cities.
“A bottom up participatory approach is required to identify local needs and to make an action plan. All relevant actors should play their respective roles to facilitate cooperative and collaborative action.
“Investment is needed in both human and physical domains to make these towns both climate resilient and migrant friendly. Each of these towns needs to invest in manufacturing and services that will generate employment. Both public and private initiatives and investments are required,” he said.
“The central government should play the anchor role and bring all actors on to the same platform,” Carruthers added.
ICCCAD Director Dr Saleemul Huq, presiding over the inauguration program, said: “The urbanization pattern is very Dhaka centric. 10 million people from coastal regions may not be able to live here in the next 20 years. Therefore, we have to create migrant friendly cities.
“The drinking water supply and improved agriculture may be adequate in the short term. But in the long run, we have to think about their [coastal population] movement. We have to be capable enough, educated enough, and ready enough to move them to other towns,” he added.
More than 60% of Bangladesh’s urban population – one-third of its total population – is concentrated in four major cities. By 2035, nearly 110 million people are expected to inhabit urban areas in the country, constituting half the population.
Sarder Shafiqul Alam, coordinator of urban climate change at ICCCAD, said: “It is projected that around 13 million people in Bangladesh will be displaced by 2050, eventually migrating to Dhaka and other big cities, where climate migrants are expected to outnumber the current population. It will be difficult for cities like Dhaka to absorb this massive influx of climate migrants.”