Back in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had noted that the single greatest impact of climate change will be on human migration. In 2018, of the new 28 million internally displaced people in 148 countries, 61 percent were due to disasters. In comparison, 39 percent were displaced due to conﬂict and violence. Experts believe that by 2050, more than 200 million people will be forced to flee their homes.
These statistics feature in a series of articles on migration in the latest State of India’s Environment Annual, which was released here yesterday at the 2020 Anil Agarwal Dialogue and Annual Media Conclave by Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
With increasing intensity and frequency, natural disasters now affect more than half of India’s population, both in rural and urban areas. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, 27 of the 37 states and Union territories are disaster-prone. Some 68 percent of the cultivated land is vulnerable to drought, 58.6 percent landmass is prone to earthquakes, 12 percent to floods, 5,700 km of the coastline is prone to cyclones and 15 percent of the area is susceptible to landslides.
The 2011 Census shows that 405 million (or 33 percent) of the country’s population is on the move, with some 9.9 million people migrating from one state to another every year. Displacement or rise in migration due to disasters has raised concerns about increasing human trafficking. It is a known fact that in countries like India, there has been clear evidence of linkages between disaster, migration, and vulnerability to human trafficking. The UN Environment Programme estimates that trafficking goes up by 20-30 percent during disasters. Large-scale migration is also increasing xenophobia and intolerance around the world.
Says Sunita Narain, director general, CSE: “Remember, climate change impacts are the tipping points as the poor are already living on the margins. Increased inequality is adding to stress; rural economies are dying. Weather-related events will drive people to the point of no return — they will join the hordes of migrants. We know this from the number of illegal settlements in our cities today.”
Narain suggests a two-pronged solution that nations should start thinking about immediately: “One, institute strategies to build local economies so that people do not have to leave. And two, stop building a divisive agenda on migration — there will be no end once we start to count the outsider.”