South Asia’s Climate Migration is a Ticking Bomb

Context: June 5 marked the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day which was started by the United Nations in June 1972 at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Area of Climate Displacement Hotspots:
  • South Asia houses the world’s most impacted climate displacement hotspots, including the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region, coastal areas, island nations, and deltaic and semi-arid regions. 
  • Land regions which are prone to high environmental vulnerability include Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka affected by sea level rise and coastal floods. 
  • While Bhutan, Afghanistan and Nepal are affected by glacial melt and temperature rise, small island nations such as the Maldives face the threat of submersion.
  • The situation is exacerbated by high population density, poverty, and inadequate infrastructure.
  • By 2050, nearly 216 million South Asians could be displaced due to climatic reasons.
Costs of Displacements:
  • By 2050, globally there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees.
  • Climate displacement results in job losses, food insecurity, and an overall overcrowding of resources, creating further migration and incurring other social and economic costs.
  • Poor economic capabilities reduce the adaptive capacity of communities to climate change events and promote migration.
    • Internally displaced people migrate for better livelihood opportunities, and safety. 
  • Changes in agricultural patterns and water availability force people to migrate to urban areas. Climate migration creates a multiplier effect on pre-existing threats such as overcrowding, and conflicts over resources sharing.
    • The correlation between climate vulnerability and violence is notable.
Supporting the Climate Refugees:
  • The importance of improving resistance and resilience by introducing sustainable solutions such as adopting salinity-resistant crops, making coastal areas resistant, and strengthening infrastructure will be deterministic. 
  • Such structure gaps need to be corrected to ensure that communities are not forced to migrate.
  • The underlying economic reasons of poverty and poor infrastructure play a crucial role in the efficacy of a climate adaptation method.
Weak Policy Responses:
  • Most countries in South Asia lack comprehensive policies to address climate displacement, and international aid has been insufficient to meet the needs of affected communities.
  • Missed targets of climate funding also hold back developing nations from financing their climate goals and building resilience.
  • Governments and international agencies must recognise the severity of climate displacement in South Asia and mitigate its effects.
  • Further, governments in the region must develop targeted policies that address the specific needs of climate-displaced communities.
  • Apart from developing resilience, policies should focus on providing alternative livelihood opportunities and social protection programmes to help affected communities cope with the impacts of climate change.
Implications for COP:
  • Although the “loss and damage” framework developed at COP27, is aimed at supporting most impacted countries which is viewed as an integral part of climate justice, concerns remain on whether wealthy countries would be willing to pay any “liabilities” or “reparations”. 
  • While human mobility could not find its place on the COP agenda, the final COP27 text identified “displacement”, “relocation”, and “migration” as some of the concern areas that would be addressed by the loss and damage financing.
Conclusion:
  • Even after the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day, 40% of the world’s population still live in areas that are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change, including water scarcity, drought, heat stress, sea level rise, and extreme events such as floods and tropical cyclones.
  • The World Development Report on Migrants, Refugees, and Societies states, “As the world struggles to cope with global economic imbalances, diverging demographic trends, and climate change, migration will become a necessity in the decades to come for countries at all levels of income”.
Source: The Hindu

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