Understanding the linkages between climate change and migration from Bangladesh to India

DOI10.1177/0973598411110008
Date01 June 2011
Published date01 June 2011
Subject MatterArticle
Understanding the linkages between
climate change and migration
from Bangladesh to India
Debasree Chatterjee*
Introduction
The post cold war era was marked with certain new and complex non-
traditional threats having a transnational character which led to the
replacement of traditional security concerns dominated by concepts like
national interests, state borders and arms race. The non-traditional security
represented both horizontal and vertical broadening of the concept
encompassing a vast range of issues. While horizontal widening of the
concept refers to new non-military security threats such as environmental,
economic, demographic, criminal and terrorist, health, information and
immigration, vertical widening of the concept of security refers to other
non-state referent objects viz. individuals, local communities, groups
having common ethnic, religious or ideological traits and global
communities (Prezeli, 2008). Global environmental change emerged as a
major threat to security issues in world politics in recent decades as effects
of environmental degradation threaten to aggravate socio-economic crises
triggering instability and conflict, inter-state or intra-state. The fourth
assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(2007) estimated that climate change will exert pressure oh natural
resources creating certain adverse impacts both in national as well as in the
international relations. While in the national level impact of conflict over
scarce natural resources will be confined with the intensification of
existing socio-economic problems, in the international arena it will
multiply conflict over natural resource distribution and cross border
migration posing a big threat in the security and bilateral relations. Impacts
of climate change such as coastal inundation due to sea-level rise,
desertification, droughts and water scarcity and other natural hazards might
induce migration both within the country and beyond the national border
which has been predicted as one of the most serious challenges in
contemporary time that exacerbate social disorder and instability among
* M. Phil Student, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University.
i
inrlerstanding the
linkages between .... Bangladesh to India 109
international community and in the conflict prone regions (Paungmalit and
Tay, 2010; Stern, 2006).
The present paper seeks to explore the extent to which climatic changes
play an important role in inducing migration from Bangladesh to India and
against this framework also endeavours to study the implications crucial
for India. The paper is divided into four sections. The first section
discusses briefly the debate over the usage of the term environmental
refugees followed by an overview of the linkage between climate change,
environmental degradation and migration. The second section discusses
elaborately threats and impacts of various climatic hazards in Bangladesh
which induces migration across borders. The third section explains the
concerns and implications for India in the light of the influx of people from
Bangladesh and finally the paper concludes with findings from the
discussions and recommending strategies and policies to check the growing
it menace,
e !
[ Environmental Change to Climate Refugees: Theoretical Perspective
d The discussion on the relationship between environmental degradation and
r climate change remained one of the most debated as well controversial
s issues as wide disparities continued to exist on the assumptions of
il environmental degradation and its impact, number of people to be affected
a and complex nature of human-environment relationship (Oliver-Smith and
s Shen, 2009).
s
^ Debate over Definition of Environmental Refugees
e In the 1970s, the concept of environmental refugees was first introduced
Lj by Lester Brown of the World Watch Institute but the concept became
e widely diffused by the contribution on the subject by El-Hinnawi (1985)
r and Black, (2001). In 1985 in a study prepared for the United Nations
,f Environment Programme, El-Hinnawi defined environmental refugees as
[1 'all displaced people having been forced to leave^ their original habitat
ir (having left voluntarily) to protect themselves from harm and/or to seek a
s better quality of life'. El-Hinnawi further recognized environmental
refugees into three subtypes: (1) those temporarily displaced due to
Lt environmental stress such as earthquake or cyclone; (2) those permanently
ir displaced due to permanent changes to their habitat such as dam
n construction or man-made lakes and (3) those permanently displaced as
they were unable to meet their basic needs because of scarce resources in
their original habitat (El-Hinnawi, 1985). Broad definition of

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