Saturday, January 16, 2010

Environmental refugees flooding cities in poorest nations

Jane Cutter in Millions of people have been forced from their homes due to natural disasters. According to migration experts, worsening climate conditions as a result of global warming will result in tens of millions more people in the developing world forced to move due to natural disasters. “Environmental refugees have lost everything,” said Rabab Fatima, the South Asia representative of the International Organization for Migration. “They don’t have the money to make a big move. They move to the next village, the next town and eventually to a city.” (New York Times, Jan. 3)

The rapid increase in urban populations is resulting in serious problems, as water, energy and food resources are limited in cities of the underdeveloped world, according to Koko Warner, an expert on environmental migration at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn.

Bangladesh provides a good example. It is a mostly flat and densely populated country with 140 million residents. Traditionally, rural families migrated following a seasonal pattern. They moved to cities, working to send money home to the village, and returned for planting season. (New York Times, Jan. 3)

Now, families are moving on a permanent basis. According to Fatima, there are more intense storms and floods now than in the past. Furthermore, salinization damage to crops caused by the rising tide in conjunction with worsening river erosion has forced many from their villages. As a result, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is now the fastest-growing megacity in the world, according to the World Bank, with a population of at least 12 million; more than 400,000 newcomers arrive each year….

Children at play in Dhaka, shot by Mark Knobil, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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