Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss the rising threat of climate related migration and it’s implications on India.
Conclusion. Way forward.

The term ‘climate migrants’ is used to refer to people displaced due to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, floods and droughts. It is a common notion that climate migrants could lead to an increase in the number of urban poor and add to urban development challenges. In India, evidence about climate migration is less although the number of climate migrants could be high, given the recent events of frequent floods and droughts and the fact that South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and most of the countries share ecological zones, borders and culture.

Rising threat of climate related migration to India:

  1. Increased sea level rise in the inhabited islands of the Sundarbans, drought in central India and extreme floods in the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins are already displacing people.
  2. And with the lack of adequate infrastructure in cities, migrants are likely to end up living in crowded temporary shelters with low access to drinking water, sanitation and health care facilities.
  3. If sea levels rise by one metre due to climate change, storm surges could make island nations such as the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, or Tuvalu largely uninhabitable and force people to take refuge in other countries.
  4. A recent report has indicated that the major deltas of the world such as the Ganges, Mekong and Nile may be adversely affected due to climate change and that it is already contributing to migration and displacement.
  5. Climate change might lead to increased flow of migrants from neighbouring countries. As many as 120 million people could be rendered homeless by 2100 both in India and Bangladesh due to sea level rise and given the proximity of Bangladesh to India much of the people will end up as migrants in Indian cities which are already facing resource scarcity.

Impact of climate related migration:

  1. Climate change may significantly affect human migration in different ways. First, warming of the atmosphere in some regions will reduce the agricultural potential and undermine the ecosystem services such as fertile soil and water affecting people’s livelihoods.
  2. Increasing extreme weather events will generate mass displacement.  Even a marginal rise in climate migrants to cities could be an urban development challenge. This holds true for two reasons:
    • Cities don’t have adequate infrastructure to host migrants.
    • The migrants are unlikely to have the required skills to work in urban areas.
  3. Sea level rise will destroy the low-lying coastal areas and millions of people who will have to relocate permanently.
  4. Increased migration is likely within India due to the effects of climate change such as drought, desertification, sea level rise, water scarcity and low food productivity, and melting glaciers.
  5. Climate change is likely to expose hundreds of millions of people to increasing environmental risks displacing a large number of people and forcing them to migrate. There is an emerging view that these people should be recognised as climate refugees by international laws and proper institutional arrangements should be made to address their problems.

Way forward:

  1. The need of the hour is a normative shift on the issue of climate-induced migration to ensure that those victimised by anthropogenic and natural climate change are met with a compassionate, coordinated global regime rather than strict national immigration policies, like those currently employed in India.
  2. Policymakers need to make India’s agricultural system resilient to climate change like drought resistant crops.
  3. Governments need to ensure that mega-cities are less vulnerable to the effects of mass urbanization.
  4. Lastly, India need a long-term plan to finance rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the event of climate-induced disasters.

Current knowledge based on the relation between climate change and migration of people is still limited. There is a need for a better understanding of the relation between climate change and migration. The international community should not be distracted by the semantic differences between words to describe the status of people migrating due to climate change. We need to recognise the problem and appropriate strategies and measures to assist the people displaced by climate change should be devised to effectively deal with the problem.