Written by Sreejon Shaker
“Climate refugees” are the most terrible sufferers of climate change due to global warming and natural disasters. They face various contraventions to deal with natural disasters. However, this term can create complications because it does not exist in international law. People who cross an international border in “a fear of being oppressed for race, religion, nationality, or political opinion” are defined as refugees. Climate change is one of the reasons for internal displacement and because of this after a certain time, people are being forced to cross borders for their survival. It means that those who abandon their habitat due to disastrous changes in the environment can be called Climate Refugees. According to researcher Essam El-Hinnawi, “Those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habit, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardized their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. By environmental disruption in this definition is meant any physical, chemical, and/or biological changes in the ecosystem (or resource base) that render it, temporarily or permanently, unsuitable to support human life.”(Bates, 2002). This climate refugee concept is an expanding phenomenon that has been overgrown in the last two decades.
Even though climate refugees have been acknowledged lately, they have subsisted throughout the majority of history and they can be found in primitive civilizations. Without knowing the concept of environmental refugee, primitive civilizations had to handle the problem of migration and conflict. For instance, if we look back to the civilization in ‘Mesopotamia’ and ‘south Asia’, they had undergone environmental degradation which forced them to forsake their native lands. From 2200 BC to 1700 BC, Mesopotamia and south Asia, these civilizations emerged and for their development, they sucked natural resources to the fullest. They were desperate for the development of their main provinces, for which they were also prepared to harm the environment.
These civilizations faced severe changes in the environment during the dark ages. Fertilized lands were decreased due to salinization. Which reduced agricultural development during the dark ages. For survival, people had no other option but to move out of urban areas. This same situation occurred for the Harappan civilization. This civilization was discovered in modern-day Pakistan in the Indus River flood plains. The combination of resource exploitation and tectonic activity led to societal crises (Chase-Dunn & Anderson, 2005).
Whether it’s Mesopotamia or present-day Pakistan, Due to agricultural degradation, there was a shortage in the food supply for urbanized society. So people had to migrate out of urban areas. Though these circumstances have variations from today’s environmental refugees, however, the thought continues to be the same. Individuals who sponged there until the lands became barren, to support their lifestyle had to move out of their habitat which resulted in the creation of environmental refugees. In the present era, we are facing climate disasters. Since the 1970s chances of being displaced by disaster have been doubled. From 2008 to 2015, 203.4 million individuals were being displaced by disasters. Rising sea level has become a major factor in climate displacement. Because of the rising level and salinity of freshwater, states like Papua New Guinean, Nigeria, Maldives have already begun to relocate their people elsewhere permanently.
The number of disasters Bangladesh is facing is more severe than these states. As a result, the climate-induced migration rate is higher than the others. Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development said that we could not absorb a potential 10 million climate refugees or climate that might have been occurred over the next 10 to 20 years. . More than 6 million people are being displaced in Bangladesh due to natural hazards. Bangladesh has become one of the most climate-disastrous states because it is situated in a unique geographical position. Climate change has complexes the whole situation. Floods, cyclones, storms, and droughts all of these disasters are leading individuals and masses to displace from their habitation. Generally, floods and riverbank erosion make people displaced in the coastal and mainland areas the most. Association for Climate Refugees (ACR) calculated the number of climate refugees who had already been displaced. They used various methods to calculate like managing workshops, getting information from community leaders about mass people losses. They selected 24 coastal and mainland areas which were already creating climate refugees. 42% habitant had lost their houses and yields to river erosion. In coastal areas salinization affects the residents 2 times a year for 3 years. Every 3 years tropical cyclones hit Bangladesh. Which has a high death ratio and high damage ratio of the coastal and core area of Bangladesh. In 1970 and 1991 500,000 and 140,000 people died respectively in tropical cyclones. As our earth becomes hotter due to climate change Bangladesh will become more and more vulnerable to natural disasters. The sea level will rise. It has been estimated that 13% of the coastal areas of Bangladesh will go drown in the sea by 2080. More than 25 million will be lost their habitat permanently.
Climate refugees are one of the most venerable communities in the world today. Many organizations such as The Environmental Justice Foundation, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are helping migrated people. Forced migration is not only a sign not for people who are migrated but also for the host country. UNHCR acknowledges the danger and the outcome of climate change and how it is affecting people to migrate forcefully. People who are being displaced across borders because of global climate change and disasters require protection domestically and internationally. That is why refugee law has been made and it is playing a vital role in migration protection. UNHCR officially began formulating its policies in 2007, but before that, there had been working on various issues regarding climate since the 1990s. UNHCR is working extensively on the protection of migration. For example, in 2010 Haiti was struck by an earthquake. Although UNHCR did not participate primarily, however, they took care of other matters. For instance, they ensured humanitarian visas to endangered families for reunion outside of Haiti and also protected them. UNHCR also maintained a key role in Pakistan during the 2010 floods. UNHCR covers four main areas of climate and disaster displacement:-
1. Legal advice, guidance, and the development of norms.
2. Promoting policy coherence.
4. Field-based activities.
UNHCR is raising awareness about climate change. They have been engaged in 40 different actions regarding environmental migration since 1999. Showing climate change to the world as a conductor of displacement and addressing protection for displaced people within the context of natural emergencies.
Of all the support and help, it is our responsibility to be aware of the use of natural resources. Because natural resources are not renewable energy sources. Natural resources are limited at one point they will reach their limit. Therefore we have to control our consumption of natural resources. Emphasis should be placed on the use of renewable energy. Or else the world will suffer more devastating disasters due to the exploitation of natural resources in the name of development. Hence, this will make more climate refugees. States should smooth their border obligations for the climate refugees. Natural disasters are phenomena that living things including us (Humans) cannot counter. But were surviving these phenomena from ancient times and we will have to survive. We have to take care of People who shouldn’t lose their livelihood, even if they leave their homeland.
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