Climate Change and Internal Migration in Bangladesh - Country Profile Bangladesh (2024)

Natural disasters such as floods, tropical cyclones, and droughts are expected to increase in frequency in Bangladesh in the future, whilst creeping processes such as riverbank erosion, sea level rise, and salinity ingress are likely to continue unabated. More rainfall and run-off are expected during the monsoon months, while the already scanty rainfalls in the dry season are likely to decline further. Together, these changes add to persisting patterns of stress on marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and to local water scarcity and land degradation. Climate change thus has the potential to damage lives and livelihoods of millions of Bangladeshis. The rural population living at the coast and along the major rivers is particularly exposed to cyclones and flooding; the people in northern regions are particularly affected by dry spells and heat waves. Small-scale farmers and landless laborers are most sensitive to climatic risks as they are already facing chronic poverty and food insecurity.

Migration is often discussed as a possible coping strategy against rapid-onset natural hazards and as an adaption to slow-onset processes. If people leave a place because their livelihoods have been negatively affected by natural hazards or environmental changes, one might speak of "environmental migrants" or "environmentally-induced migration". In order to understand Interner Link: migration in the context of climate change, one should first investigate pre-existing mobility patterns and livelihood systems, and then assess the "additional burden" that climate-related risks pose for people. Considering the above sketched migration patterns, climatic changes cannot be considered as the major causes for migration in Bangladesh. Nonetheless, natural disasters and environmental change have altered the ways in which rural people are pursuing their livelihoods, and have contributed to people’s decision to migrate. Climate change might thus impact the patterns of internal migration in Bangladesh, whilst large-scale international movements of Bangladeshis are not to be expected for this reason.

Mobility can serve as a temporary post-disaster coping strategy. The floods of 1987, for example, led to the temporary displacement of 45 million people in Bangladesh. Yet, a high susceptibility to natural hazards does not necessarily lead to an increase in permanent migration. Most survivors of heavy tropical cyclones are also only temporarily displaced and return quickly. Often also only men move to nearby cities to work, whilst their families stay back home and rely on the migrants’ supporting transfers. Social networks and, in particular, good translocal relations have proved to be crucial in a post-disaster situation. Disasters can, however, also reduce mobility by increasing the labor needs at places of origin or by removing the resources necessary to migrate. Many families living under conditions of extreme poverty may experience significant barriers to migration: They have neither adult male family members who could work as labor migrants, the required resources to facilitate migration, nor access to the necessary migration networks. These "trapped populations", among them many elderly and many female-headed households, are often the people who are most severely affected by a disaster, because they are forced to live with the resources that are locally available to them. They largely depend on post-disaster aid, mutual help and solidarity within the community. Their immobility is an additional source of their vulnerability.

Besides natural hazards that my "hit" a particular area suddenly and often unexpectedly, there are also more subtle environmental changes that force people to (temporarily) leave their place of residence. River bank erosion and coastal erosion due to sea level rise are two examples of such slow-onset processes. Since 1973, over 158,780 hectares of land have been eroded by Bangladesh’s major rivers. More than 16,000 people living on the banks of the Ganges and Brahmaputra have allegedly been displaced in 2010 alone. Besides economic and political factors, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and soil salinization will contribute to the displacement of people from the coastline and the densely populated delta region.

The 2011 census revealed that the population already decreases in those rural regions that are most severely affected by floods, cyclones and riverbank erosion. For Bangladesh, estimates are that 26 million people would be affected and displaced by storm surges and sea level rise by the year 2050. Annually, 250,000 people might be displaced as a consequence of climate-induced hazards under a moderate climate change scenario. Yet, such estimates have to be treated with caution because the exact reasons why people are displaced – or do they migrate voluntarily? – are often not considered adequately. Also, the underlying assumptions are quite simplistic. People are displaced by nature for good: they leave once and for all, they do not come back, they do not move forward. Migration is thereby portrayed as a singular and linear process. This is not only environmentally deterministic as all other social, cultural, economic, political and spatial factors that contribute to migration decisions are simply not considered. It also denies people their capacity to cope with shocks to their livelihoods and to adapt to environmental changes and other structural transformations. And lastly, compared to the 500,000 labor migrants who have left (and mostly returned to) Bangladesh each year in the past decade in order to work abroad and who sent home remittances, a number of 250,000 people who move within the nation and settle in cities and do seasonal labor in other parts of the country does not seem to pose a too big of a problem for the Bangladeshi people. In contrast, increasing internal mobility and translocal lives might pave the way for future developments and enhanced resilience against natural disasters.

This article is part of the Interner Link: country profile Bangladesh.

Climate Change and Internal Migration in Bangladesh - Country Profile Bangladesh (2024)


What are the causes of internal migration in Bangladesh? ›

Source of income is turned out to be as one of the determinant factors of internal migration of Bangladesh. People working in the manufacture or service sectors are more prone to migrate as compared to those engage in agricultural sector. Land-ownership is also a factor influence the migration decision.

How is Bangladesh affected by climate change? ›

An increased number of floods, due to reduced river gradients, higher rainfall in the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra river basins, and the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, is considered the major reason for migration in the context of climate change in Bangladesh over all.

Will one in every seven people in Bangladesh be displaced by climate change? ›

The government estimates that by 2050, one in every seven Bangladeshis will be displaced due to climate change – that's 13.3 million people.

Is Bangladesh one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change? ›

Bangladesh, a frontline country in the global climate change crisis, experienced 185 extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019, ranking it the eighth most vulnerable nation to climate change.

What are the 5 reasons for internal migration? ›

Causes of Internal Migration. People migrate within their countries for many reasons. The causes can be divided into five categories: cultural, demographic, environmental, economic, and political causes.

What is the present situation of migration in Bangladesh? ›

According to UNDESA, there were 2,115,408 foreigners present in Bangladesh in mid-2020,10 just under 1.3% of the total population. Roughly 80% of these foreigners were originally from South and Southeast Asia, mainly from Myanmar (43%), Malaysia (9.4%), China (7.5%), Indonesia (7%), and Laos (4%).

Where do Bangladesh climate refugees go? ›

Many flee to the country's capital, Dhaka, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It grew by well over half a million people last year. A large proportion of this influx are climate refugees fleeing who pack into the cities severely overcrowded slums.

What impact will extreme weather events have on Bangladesh? ›

Even with accelerated climate action, continued warming and more extreme weather will stress adaptation efforts in Bangladesh, making it harder to protect lives and livelihoods. The accelerating impacts of climate change in Bangladesh highlights an urgent need to scale up international action against climate change.

How does climate change affect agriculture in Bangladesh? ›

by erratic rainfall, temperature extremes, increased salinity, drought, floods, river erosion, and tropical storms. All of which are likely to increase as a result of climate change. sea level rise has the potential to increase the demand on the agricultural sector whilst limiting the amount of cultivatable land.

What are the solutions to climate change in Bangladesh? ›

Increase use of renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydro power. Increase use of 'off grid' solar for remote areas. Educate school-going children about climate change and its effects. Encourage use of solar power in irrigation.

What are the causes of climate displacement in Bangladesh? ›

The primary causes of climate displacement in Bangladesh tidal height increases in the coastal areas and riverbank erosion in the mainland areas. The secondary causes of displacement are tropical cyclones and storm surges in the coastal regions and river flooding in the mainland.

Is Bangladesh a role model of climate change? ›

'Bangladesh can be a role model for developed and developing world in dealing with climate change' Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said although Bangladesh is affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, it can act as a role model before the world in addressing climate change.

How bad is climate change in Bangladesh? ›

The World Risk Index 2023 ranks Bangladesh ninth worldwide for climate disaster risk. By 2050, Bangladesh will lose 17% of its territory due to rising sea levels, resulting in the loss of 30% of the country's agricultural land. The rise of sea levels in coastal areas is prompting people to migrate into cities.

Which country is safest from climate change? ›

Sweden. Sweden is ranked among the 22 countries most likely to survive climate change. The country had an ND-GAIN score of 6.2 in 2021. Sweden is among the least vulnerable countries to climate change and is one of the top climate-ready countries, according to the ND-GAIN Index.

What will happen to Bangladesh in 2050? ›

By 2050, a third of agricultural GDP could be lost and 13 million people could become internal climate migrants. In case of a severe flooding, GDP could fall by as much as 9 percent. “Bangladesh has led the way in adaptation and disaster risk management.

What are the causes of forced migration in Bangladesh? ›

More and more people, however, have to migrate because they are displaced by environmental changes. Nowadays in the vulnerable coastal areas and flood prone areas of Bangladesh, many wake up to find themselves on the receiving end of climatic change impacts and disasters and without shelter or livelihoods.

Why do people move from Bangladesh? ›

A study on Bangladeshis taking boats to migrate illegally into other countries identified the rise of people-smuggling networks, climate change, economic inequality, and political repression as key drivers of people's outbound journey.

What are two reasons for rural to urban migration in Bangladesh? ›

From the dataset, it is found that poverty, job search, landlessness, homelessness, various natural disaster are the main push factors for rural out migration, while easy access to informal sectors and slum area, higher income probability, better service facilities are the main pull factors behind migration.

What are the types of migration in Bangladesh? ›

Currently two types of international migration occur from Bangladesh. One takes place mostly to the industrialized west and the other to Middle Eastern and South East Asian countries. Voluntary migration to the industrialized west includes permanent residents, immigrants, work permit holders and professionals.

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