Climate change, other calamities displace 6.8m in 10 yrs

Iftekhar Mahmud . Dhaka | Update:

Bangladeshi villagers make their way to shelter in Cox’s Bazar on 21 May 2016, as a cyclone hits the coastal areas of the country. AFP file photoNatural disasters have affected one-fourth of the country’s population in one way or the other over the past decade. Around 6.8 million people were displaced in these 10 years due to various natural calamities.

Along with the floods and cyclones, in recent years large numbers of people have also been affected by cold waves, landslides and other disasters. This was revealed in a research conducted jointly by the Swedish human rights organisation Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) and Independent University Bangladesh (IUB).

The research on law and policy protection in the context of displacement due to disasters and climate change, covered 10 different countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Nepal. The reports on Bangladesh, Indonesia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have been published.

Involved in the research, associate professor of law at IUB, Abdul Awal Khan, told Prothom Alo that at global forums Bangladesh strongly raises the issue of human displacement due to climate change. However, the country lacked adequate legal framework and institutional management to protect these people’s rights. The government must take measures to ensure this, he said.

The reports took into cognizance 7 types of disasters that hit Bangladesh from 2009 to 2018. Of the 51 major disasters that occurred in that span of time, the people were worst affected by the cyclone Aila. Cyclone Aila struck Bangladesh in 2009, affecting around 1.34 million people.

Floods are the most recurrent natural disaster in Bangladesh. There were 16 floods in Bangladesh over the past 10 years, affecting around 22.66 million.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, senior secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry Md Shah Kamal said it is true that large numbers of people in Bangladesh are rendered homeless every year due to floods, river erosion and cyclones. However, the government is rehabilitating them through the Ashrayan project. The people are being helped through various social safety programmes. The government is also making disaster-resistant homes to ensure the people are not displaced.

The research analysed the state of displaced people’s rights in the light of the state laws and polices dealing with climate change and disasters. It was observed that the Disaster Management Act 2012 mentioned the issue of displaced persons. The government’s climate change strategy and action plan points out that disasters are increasing sue to climate change and the number of persons displaced due to disasters is increasing too. However, it does not deal with how the rights of these displaced people will be ensured. In fact, it does not even have any record of how many people are being displaced annually.

The research recommends that an independent agency be formed to monitor the condition of the displaced people. It also recommended that a law be drawn up to ensure the legal rights and protection of the displaced people. It pointed out that like any citizen of the country, they had the right to food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare.

Speaking about the research report, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies Dr Atiq Rahman told Prothom Alo, the number of calamities is increasing due to climate change and may increase further in the coming days. That is why the government must have a work plan to ensure the protection and the rights of the people who will be displaced due to climate change.

* This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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