After Covid-19 broke out, those who had internally migrated earlier for climate-induced reasons found themselves without jobs and returned to their original homes with no means of maintaining their subsistence, which caused them to experience deep anxiety, revealed a study.
Both male and female migrant workers who went back to their villages faced multiple crises, such as the absence of any means to access livelihoods as well as the simultaneous outbreak of natural disasters, said the recent research titled "Impact of Covid-19 on Nexus Between Climate Change and Labour Migration in selected South Asian countries: An exploratory study."
The joint research conducted by International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) observed that workers from Dhaka and Chattogram returned to different climate-affected areas such as the Sundarbans, Chapainawabganj, Bagerhat, Rajshahi, Patuakhali, Barishal, Barguna and the three districts of the Chattogram Hill Tracts.
"Sundarbans is a good example of how people experienced multiple crises at the same time. Migrants from both sides of the Sundarbans who returned from different destinations were affected in several ways," read the report.
At this point, they were struck with another disaster: cyclone Amphan hit both sides of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India from 16 to 21 May 2020.
It displaced 2.4 million Indians and 2.5 million Bangladeshis, the world's largest disaster-related displacement in 2020, says the research.
It is primarily desk research conducted over the period from November 2020 to May 2021. The study aimed to better understand how internal and international migrant workers who moved in the context of climate change have been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19.
The study mentioned that figures are not available for the percentage of internal and international migrant workers originating from areas affected by climate change and who had to return home amid the pandemic.
Overall, the number of Bangladeshis displaced by the varied impacts of climate change could reach 13.3 million by 2050, making it the country's number-one driver of internal migration, according to a March 2018 World Bank report.
Over the last decade, nearly seven lakh Bangladeshis were displaced on average each year by natural disasters, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
The study found that owing to Covid-19, government response to manage the impact of cyclone Amphan in both countries was faced with extreme challenges.
The social distancing measures reduced the capacity of the shelters to 40%. The National Disaster Management Authority of India and the Department of Disaster Management in Bangladesh organised an evacuation and awareness campaign that helped reduce the loss of lives.
Standing crops were destroyed on both sides of the Sundarbans, creating food insecurity for the inhabitants of the area.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief of Bangladesh has not reported on the condition of migrant workers who returned to rural areas because of Covid-19.
Similarly, ministries and departments who were in charge of coordinating the Covid-19 situation do not appear to have any knowledge of how the pandemic impacted the areas that were affected by disaster and climate change, nor has any partnership emerged with the same ministry that manages disaster.
"The government should have surveyed how many (Climate-induced) internally migrated people returned to their home amid the pandemic, so, they could be provided special support," said Asif Munier, an expert on migration-related issues.
"The government has to form and formulate short term and long term plans to facilitate the climate-induced migrant people," he added.
Cyclone Amphan originated from Sri Lanka, but its impact on people there was little as it progressed towards the coastal areas of India and Bangladesh. Around 2,000 people in east Sri Lanka were affected.
A combination of a rise in sea level, destructive storms, land erosion and an increase in water salinity made both parts of the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh a major source area for climate-induced displacement followed by livelihood migration.