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    Posted June 16, 2014 by
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    Managing the Displacement of Coastal Populations from Rising Sea Levels in Bangladesh

    I. Background: Today, more and more people are being forced from their homes by weather-related disasters, environmental degradation and changing climatic conditions. Over the past several decades, natural disasters have increased in force and frequency and are responsible for displacing millions of people. In addition, growing water scarcity, desertification, and decreased agricultural output are causing more people to migrate to support livelihoods. Access to scarce natural resources has the potential to give a birth to a conflict. In the future, climate change will increasingly harm Bangladesh’s populations through greater weather variability, water scarcity, and severe environmental degradation. But today, increased displacement due to more frequent large-scale natural disasters is challenging an already stressed international humanitarian system. Bangladesh suffers from regular natural hazards, including floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts. These hazards are already leading to the loss and destruction of housing, land and property, the loss of livelihoods and widespread displacement across the country. The effects of climate change are expected to exacerbate many of these existing hazards, as well as create new drivers of displacement. Many of these hazards are expected to disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable in Bangladesh, a country where more than 50 million people live in poverty.

    II. Issue #1: Over the last 100 years, Bangladesh has warmed up by about 0.5 degrees C and a 0.5 m rise of sea level in the Bay of Bengal. Climatic change is occurring all over the world due to greenhouse effects, and anticipated sea level rise is likely to destroy most of the existing coastal areas if preventive measures cannot be taken with integrated global effort. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that climate change would contribute to 0.6 meter or more of global sea level rise by 2100. The low-lying and least-developed countries like Bangladesh are very vulnerable against sea level rise. Bangladesh would face 30 cm to 50 cm sea level rise in 2030 and 2050 respectively. Sea levels in the Bay of Bengal have risen much faster over the past decades and as a result, low-lying and small islands are at a greater risk. Recent satellite images show that the South Talpatti has disappeared due to sea level rise. It is predicted that other small islands in the Bay of Bengal may disappear like South Talpatti in the coming decades.
    Solution: In order to help deal with these impacts UNICEF has been working across Bangladesh to help communities at risk of cyclones, floods, droughts and sea level rising, to adapt their infrastructure to climate changes. This has included the creation of ecological villages and neighborhoods, preparing communities and schools to reduce their risk to disasters, adapting their water supply and making sure their schools are safer places. This way, we can make a positive impact, ensuring that children in Bangladesh and their communities become more resilient to the increasing challenge that climate change poses for the country.
    Impact: The impact of the solution proposed can be greatly seen in the small areas of Bangladesh. UNICEF and other organizations are giving a great hand in alerting all the people before a cyclone hits their area.

    III. Issue #2: In the South-western Khulna region, a 5.18-mm/year sea level rise has been recorded which may result in an 85 cm increase in sea level by 2050. World Bank’s recent study on the impact of Sea level rise in Bangladesh revealed that 15 to 17 percent of the country’s land area (22135 to 26562 square kilometers) will be inundated within next 100 years by a 100 cm sea level rise. This will result in 1 million environmental refugees which a country like Bangladesh might not be able to accommodate. This might lead to the migration of many people in order for them not losing their lives. This is also a major reason for increase of stateless people.
    Solution: A great solution for the displacement of coastal populations’ problem would be if the civil society could support and improve the collaboration between policy makers in Dhaka and the affected communities. Effort should be made by the authorities of Bangladesh to find domestic solutions to displacement. The Government of Bangladesh and indeed the world need to take heed of the climate displacement crisis that is unfolding in Bangladesh. This is not an impossible problem to be addressed at some point in the future; this is a problem for now. Rights based solutions to climate displacement must be developed and implemented immediately.
    Impact: The civil society has started to support and improve the collaboration between policy makers in Dhaka and the affected communities. They have made few policies and laws on controlling areas that are easily prone to natural disasters due to climatic changes. The government of Bangladesh has also started to show some effort by helping out the extremely poor people that are mostly affected by these disasters by climatic changes.

    IV. Issue #3: During the monsoon season, few famous systems carry about 1.7 billion tons of silts per year causing severe turbulence in rivers. This results in gradual undercutting of riverbanks and leads to erosion. Sea level rise will strengthen upward tidal forces which alternatively will slow down the velocity of upstream water flow and cause more siltation and undercutting of river banks. When flooding happens, people living near the coast have to move very far away from that area, if they want to save their lives. Strong wave action and tidal forces will be significant causes of erosion in coastal areas. As a result, siltation will raise the river beds and will reduce the intensity of water flowing as well as hamper the breeding and nursing ground of the major open water fishery in Bangladesh. As the force of upstream water flow reduces, seawater tends to flow upstream. Such intrusion of saline water would effect to the coastal agriculture and fisheries. Saline water is water that you cannot drink. So many people got to move away from that area so that they can live their lives.
    Solution: Tropical cyclones have major economic, social and environmental consequences for coastal areas. Up to 119 million people are on average exposed every year to tropical cyclone hazard. Worldwide, from 1980 to 2000, a total of more than 250,000 deaths were associated with tropical cyclones, of which 60% occurred in Bangladesh (less than 300,000 killed in Bangladesh in 1970 by a single cyclone).
    Impact: The death toll has been reduced in the past decade due largely to improvements in warnings and preparedness, wider public awareness and a stronger sense of community responsibility. Media and newspapers have also helped in alerting all the people in the prone areas before the disaster hits them.
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