Climate Change Displacement and Gender in Bangladesh

Selina Khatun is 38 years old, and she lives at Sonadanga in the city of Khulna with two sons and a daughter. Selina Khatun came from Dashmina, Patuakhali, to Khulna district back in 2015. Her husband (Al-Amin) died in 2013 due to cyclone Viyaru, formerly known as cyclonic storm Mahasen. Al-Amin was a fisherman, and he used to catch fish in the deep-sea. Selina lost her house, where she lived with her family due to river erosion. After that, she moved to Khulna to survive with her children. With a little help from her neighbours, she found work at a fish processing factory. Selina had to move to Khulna due to the adverse effect of climate change. There are several hundred other women in the country like Selina migrate to urban from coastal areas due to climate change effects. In Bangladesh, every year a large number of populations migrate from rural to urban areas to escape poverty and find a better life.

Bangladesh is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries because of its geographical location and population density which leads to a high-level vulnerability. Tropical storms roughly flood in coastal areas and annual monsoons affect the country. These trigger hundreds of thousands of displacement each year, many in the form of life- saving pre-emptive evacuation. Coastal communities have been facing several environmental challenges for centuries. Bangladesh suffers from regular natural hazards that lead to loss of life, land, homes, and livelihoods and to the forced displacement of individuals and communities across the country. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC's), over the last decade, nearly 700,000 Bangladeshi were displaced on average each year due to natural disasters. According to a March 2018 World Bank report, 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. The annual report 2017 of the IDMC Shows that Bangladesh has 946,000 internally displaced people. This number is mounting as 50,000 people are becoming homeless due to natural disasters every year. On the other hand, it has been estimated that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change. Up to 18 million people may have to move because of sea-level rise alone. 28% of the populations of the country live on the coast, where the primary driver of displacement is tidal flooding caused by sea-level rise.

According to the Global Climate Change Risk Index 2020 report, Bangladesh stands at number 7. Climate-related hazards led to 577 deaths and caused losses of property equivalent to US Dollar 1,686 million over the past 20 years. Climate change can lead to an alarming rise in the sea level leading to displaced 5.5 million people. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the migration rate has risen from 3.3% in 1991 and 4.5% in 2001 to 6.7% currently. Several studies found that riverbank erosion is the primary cause of climate change displacement inland. Up to 50 percent the displaced people may be are now living in the urban slums on they were forced to flee from their rural homes due to river erosion. River flooding is another cause of displacement inland. River erosion and rainfall both have increased as has increased the melting of Himalayan glaciers due to climate change.

Climate change can affect the most vulnerable groups, particularly women and children. Women are among the first to face the impacts of climate change, and their suffering is disproportionate. In the cyclone disaster of 1991, for example, 90 percent of the 140,000 people who died in the country were women. As for women in many other countries, Bangladeshi women have less access to land, resource, and decision-making than men, and their lower wages, which have made it harder to survive during post displacement. The most dangerous thing is that women and children who migrate are often at risk of trafficking also. Furthermore, approximately 19 million children are at stake for climate change in the country.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiate a holistic and integrated framework that spans across social, economic and environment dimensions. Goal thirteen is especially assigned for climate change-'' Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact,'' that is centered on five principal targets. It is a cross-cutting issue and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that the impacts of climate change can potentially affect all of SDGs. It target focuses on the educative measures, raising awareness and capacity building measures aimed towards climate change mitigation, adaptation impact reduction and early warming is concerned. This goal is at the forefront of SGDs in case of Bangladesh.

The Government of Bangladesh has both the primary responsibility and the opportunity to address the immediate and future climate displacement crises in Bangladesh. Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) has prepared Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies of Bangladesh (2016-20) in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and other international protocol ratified by the Government of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has made a considerable progress in terms of disaster management and the set target of 1,500 deaths per 100,000 people by 2030 is achievable. Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 deals with a long-term plan in order to achieve sustainable growth in terms of economy, society and environment while mitigating the climate change adversities. Government has also integrated the Seventh Five Year Plan for 2016-2020 with the SDGs. Government has adopted plans in regard with climate change, environment and disaster risk reduction in order to design projects, allocate budgets and take necessary initiatives. It has also launched initiatives to create a 500 meter wide green belt to protect the coastal area. We also have a climate change action plan of 10 years program in order to work on capacity building and resilience measures to address the challenges concerned with the issues of climate change.

The Government of Bangladesh has already started mapping and planning how to implement both the SDGs as well as the Paris Agreement (PA). A unit has been set up at the Prime Minister's Office to monitor the progress. For the Paris Agreement, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has taken the lead. But as climate change affects every sector, one ministry cannot achieve the goals alone, and thus will need all other relevant ministries to be involved. Bangladesh has also implemented Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2009-2018), which acknowledges the issue of environmental displacement.

Bangladesh has formulated several laws, rules, and policies to ensure men's and women's equal rights considering all the aspects regarding environment. 'National Women and Development Policy 2011' is ensuring women empowerment. This policy includes specific sections on housing and shelter; women and the environment and pre-disaster, during disaster, and post-disaster protection of women and children. Rehabilitation of women and children affected by river erosion and natural calamities; appropriate steps for ensuring security of women on priority basis in the preparation of dealing disaster and post-disaster rehabilitation have been proposed including policy. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has opened the world's biggest housing project for climate refugees in Cox's Bazar on 23 July this year. The Premier reiterated her steadfast commitment to ensuring housing for all, including flood and river erosion hit people, while inaugurating the Khurushul Ashrayan Project, a scheme in Cox's Bazar for 600 climate refugees.

Climate change displacement issue is the burning question now a day for the country. Considering, climate change displacement along with gender, Bangladesh has taken several measures to reduce this problem. Moreover, the successful implementation of plans and achievements of both the SDG and PA goals cannot be achieved by the ministries and agencies on their own. It requires the inclusion of many other stakeholders, including private sector and others. The private sector has a great role to play, starting from the banks and insurance companies for green investment. At the same time, print and electronic media have a very significant role to play in raising public awareness about both climate change and displacement. Our all-out collaboration can only help reduce the climate change displacement upon all, particularly our women.


(PID Project Feature)


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