Climate induced Rural-Urban Migration in Bangladesh: Experience of migrants in Dhaka City

Climate-induced rural livelihood loss and consequent rural-urban migration is a common scenario in developing countries. However, little is currently known about the dynamics of the process of climate-displaced migration and the experiences of associated migrants. My research has been an attempt to understand how poor climate-induced migrants perceive their urban conditions in hydro-geophysical and socio-economic terms.

Dhaka City, the densely populated capital of Bangladesh, is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In the future a sustained influx of climate-induced migrants is likely to join the ranks of the urban poor, where they will have to face new hazards of city life. Therefore, in this research I have tried to answer questions regarding the extent to which climate-induced migrants’ aspirations have been fulfilled after migration and whether their vulnerability to different hazards is different than that of non-climate-induced migrants.
Available research has given the term ‘climate-induced migrants’ to those who have migrated mainly due to problems of the type climate change is expected to cause; for example flood, cyclone, river bank erosion, waterlogging, drought and salinity intrusion. In my research, I used a tracer survey and snowball process to identify poor climate-induced migrants in Korail, one of the largest slums in Asia. Questionnaire surveys, focus groups and personal interviews were the main research methods employed.

I argue that climatic factors have never affected any other group so severely at both their origin and destination as they have affected poor climate-induced migrants. These migrants face more severe repercussions from some hazards than other types of migrants due to the differences in their financial and coping capacities and educational qualifications. Finally, I identify illiterate female climate-induced migrants that have recently arrived from a cyclone prone area as the most vulnerable population. With the rapid rate of urbanization and climate change, this is high time to identify such migrants and create separate plans under which to provide support for them.

Written by: Neelopal Adri, Coordinator – Climate Change and Urbanization, ICCCAD August Newsletter 2014