Climate change knows no borders: an analysis of climate induced migration, protection gaps and need for solidarity in South Asia

Climate change knows no borders: an analysis of climate induced migration, protection gaps and need for solidarity in South Asia

Climate change is having devastating impacts on communities’ lives, livelihoods and food security across South Asia. Its consequences are so severe that it is increasingly contributing to migration, and this incidence is likely to escalate much more in the years to come as climate change impacts become more serious.

This study looks at climate change and its impacts on migration in South Asia, and particularly in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The South Asia region is particularly vulnerable to climate change events. Droughts, heat waves, cyclones, rising sea levels, heavy rainfall, landslides and floods strike, are often felt by two or more neighbouring countries in the region, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) anticipates that these are likely to be felt more severely in future.

Migration patterns in South Asia are complex and take several forms. Temporary migration can take place to find seasonal work, or in response to disasters as a coping mechanism. Internal migration usually takes place from rural areas to the city within the same country. External migration, usually to the Gulf states, is also a growing phenomenon. Significant numbers are also undertaking trans-boundary migration, usually from Bangladesh or Nepal to India. Rising intolerance towards Bangladeshi migrants in India’s Assam and West Bengal is also stoking tensions in the region.

It is more common for men to migrate, leaving millions of women-headed households across the region. In Nepal, there are villages with few or no men of working age. This is creating additional burden of work for women, and driving the feminisation of agriculture.

Policies are currently failing to understand the scale and impact of migration on women, and are failing to address emerging issues. Promotion of women’s empowerment, as well as women-led planning and disaster response, must be part of the solution.

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