Climate change-induced migration has emerged as a major problem for Bangladesh but the issue is not being treated with due importance at the policy level, experts have said. They urged the government to take initiative to support these migrants.
There are many climate-related issues – like river erosion, salinity and water level rise – which displace people and force them to migrate.
However, there is no mechanism or information system at the local government level to support migrant families, said speakers at a seminar titled "Addressing Climate Change-Induced Migration in Bangladesh: Taking a Human Rights-Based Approach," organised by ActionAid in the capital on Tuesday.
Currently, cities have no infrastructure or facilities to host the huge number of climate change-induced migrants, ActionAid found in a recent study.
According to the study, migrants in urban areas are living in a constant fear of eviction and with a lack of sanitation and social security. They are also excluded from local government services in these areas.
"Migration is now a common phenomenon. However, climate change-induced migration is creating a new crisis as it continues to increase," said Dr Saleemul Huq, director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development.
"We need to be prepared in advance and think about how we can help climate change-induced migrants. They need to be empowered in a way that their human rights are protected," he said.
Dr Saleemul also mentioned that the government has already initiated the Bangladesh Delta Plan addressing this issue. Urging the government to conduct awareness activities in this regard, he said, more work has to be done at the local level in this regard.
Md Mizanul Hoque Chowdhury, additional secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said, "The government is aware of such migration and we have relevant data. Regular meetings are being held with the administration and representatives of development organisations at the local level in this regard."
Elaborating on the challenge of working with the climate change-induced migrants, Mizanul said the government gives loans to support displaced people, but they come to Dhaka with the money and show no interest in going back. Providing them land and housing has not improved the situation.
"So, we have to reach out to these migrants in a joint effort to mitigate the crisis," he urged.
Voicing a similar opinion, ActionAid Country Director Farah Kabir said, "We are trying to improve the livelihoods of climate change-induced migrants at the individual and collective levels. However, an integrated effort and strategy are crucial to tackle the issue."