The rising impacts of climate change have already forced more than 18 million people to migrate within South Asian countries, but that could more than triple if global warming remains on its existing rate, researchers informed.
Approximately 63 million people could be pushed from their homes by 2050 in South Asia as rising seas and river-side villages, and drought-hit land no longer helps crops, said ActionAid International and Climate Action Network South Asia in a report.
The forecast doesn’t include those who will force to flee unexpected disasters such as floods and cyclones, and so, is likely an irony, noted Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid.
He said the consequence could become “catastrophic”.
Many will move to towns and cities from rural areas within their own countries, in search of work, he said.
There they will take shelter in slum areas exposed to flooding and with limited access to social services, doing perilous jobs such as rickshaw-pulling, construction or garment-making.
“Politicians in the Global North and the Global South are not yet awakening to this reality,” Singh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “They aren’t understanding the scale of the problem, and how we are going to deal with (it).”
He requested rich nations with high global-warming emissions to increase efforts to reduce their carbon pollution and afford more funding for South Asian countries to make cleanly and explain to conditions on a warming planet.
If governments achieve a globally agreed goal to bound warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, the number of people driven to move in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal could be limit almost by half by 2050, the report said.
It develops on research published in 2018 by the World Bank, which said unrestrained climate change could cause more than 140 million people to migrate within their nations’ borders by 2050 in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.
The new report, which used a recent version of the same methodology, raises the original 2050 prediction for South Asian migration by about half, adding in new statistics on sea-level rise, as well as the consequences of ecosystem losses and droughts.
This updated report also tracks anticipated migration on a greater scale.
Preparing for movement
The forecasts have financial consequences for nations such as India and Bangladesh, where poor people often lack the means to go far from their native homes to safer places without national support.
The new statistics show the biggest number of people are likely to migrate by 2050 in India, at more than 45 million.
But the country with the intense projected rise in migration in Bangladesh, with a seven-fold increase from today.
The report included examples collected by aid workers of people who have already been hit by deteriorating climate pressures.
In Pakistan’s arid Tharparkar district, Rajo, 37, and her husband, both labourers, moved to three different places in their area in the last three years to escape hunger caused by severe drought.
She lost a baby because of the heavy lifting in her job and had to borrow money from the landowner to cover medical bills for her family, told the researchers.
Kabita Maity, from an island in the Sundarbans delta region of India, had to migrate five times as earlier homes were gobbled up by the sea.
“We will have to stay here until the sea pushes us out, as we don’t have funds to buy land and relocate inwards,” Maity was quoted as saying.
The report called on South Asian governments to do more to prepare for deteriorating shift linked to climate change – and highlighted the importance of acting now to limit the number of people who will push to migrate in the future.
It recommended strengthening social protection systems to provide cash, and work for those affected by climate extremes and educating the basic services for migrant workers in towns – now hit doubly by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many left unemployed.
Measures that can help avoid “distress migration” include encouraging farming methods that keep soils in good condition, managing water more efficiently, improving access to markets or cultivating new crops and ways to earn money, the report noted.
Where people will move, authorities need to confirm the land is safe and fertile, tenure rights are secure, and people have enough money to build new homes, it added.
Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia, said undertaking poverty and difference also needed to be part of regional responses to climate migration.
“South Asian leaders must join forces and fix plans for the safety of migrating people,” he said in a statement.
This report has prepared based on the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Barcelona.
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