Chattogram grapples with climate migrants
"I was an affluent fisherman, had several acres of paddy filed and cattle. My family was one of the happy families in my neighbourhood in Bhola district. Our home was on the bank of the Meghna River and every year the river was coming closer due to erosion. Around 20 years ago one night the mighty Meghna devoured our sweet home, washed away cattle thus we had homeless," said Salauddin, 70, who is a street vendor now in the Chattogram city.
"Finding no other way we moved to Chattogram for a shelter and livelihood. We have taken shelter in the Bahaddarhat area, started living in a roadside tent. However, the government evicted the slum saying unwanted people in the city, and then we have moved to the slum Chhinnomul slum (a large slum area mainly for the climate migrants) of Jungle Salimpur area under the Chattogram's Sitakunda Upazila.
The Chinnomul slum is on risky hill slopes, an inhabitant of 150,000 marginal people mainly climate-induced displaced people.
Every year due to sea-level rise thousands of Bangladesh coastal people are being homeless and forced to migrate to other places including the city.
According to the World Bank Report, the number of displaced people due to the varied impacts of climate change might reach 13.3 million by 2050, counting as the foremost reason for increasing internal migration.
For finding a shelter the homeless people are coming to the city. Every year the newcomers are building new slums in Chattogram city, however, their fate doesn't favour them anytime. The government is evicting them without any solution that leads women and children to a vulnerable situation.
Moreover, after losing home in the coastal, they come to the port city while the city is grappling with the increasing climate migrant.
The city itself struggling with the climate change issue and sinking for sea-level rise.
According to the Bangladesh Survey, the city is sinking and 17% of the city under two-meter sea level while the Nasa Study said that Chattogram will be underwater within 100 years.
Rasheda Begum, who displaced from the Laxmipur district in 2018 and start living in the newly set up slum at Natun Bridge area said, "After being homeless due to sea-level raises my first challenges was to protect me. In Bangladesh, a woman living in a slum is not safe to any extent. As homeless I have no social security."
According to the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) 235 registered slums are holding around 500,000 people. However, they have no data on unregistered slums.
CCC has been providing some facilities like primary education and sanitation with the collaboration of 10 Non-Government Organizations in the slums. But the offer is barely sustainable for them, they said.
Every year the city experiences new climate refugees who start living and assembling new slums.
Many of them are living on risky hills slope which pose a threat to their lives due to frequent landslides during heavy rains, said CCC's Chief City Planner Rezaul Karim.
In 2007 in a day 127 people were killed in a landslide in the Motijoharna area most of them are climate migrants who built a settlement on hill slopes. No exception every rainy season.
"Migration is a continuous process and the homeless people flock to the city aspiring for a better life, which sadly remains a dream, the city corporation cannot do anything for the lack of fund and space said Karim, who is also a climate change expert and author of 'Climate change and its consequences on Chattogram City'
According to a report titled Climate Displacement in Bangladesh by UL based Environmental Justice Foundation said one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change by 2050 and because of sea-level rise up to 18 million people compel to move in the cities.
Due to the fund crisis, CCC cannot manage their accommodation permanently; He said 'We prepared a model project of multi-storied apartments for some climate refugees in our registered lands,'
He also said that some international organizations 'Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and BRAC are initially ready to finance those projects.'
CCC built a multi-storied building for the slum dwellers including climate refugees near the Lalkhan Bazar area three years ago while the authority has shifted its office in the building rather than distributing the listed people.
Now it is high time to think about the migrants to the city. Every plan should have included the migrant for a sustainable solution, said Shahinul Islam, chief town planner of Chattogram Development Authority.
Displace to stateless?
Not only has the accommodation problem also children born in the slum are depriving of their birth certificated considering them out-comer of the city, leading them into insecurity.
Many children are facing administrational problem during their enrolment in primary and secondary school.
Some NGOs are providing primary education in the slum but some of them have to leave their study having no birth certificate as the children are not welcomed by any of government educational institutions. Moreover, without any birth documentation leads them to a stateless citizen, insecurity, which is also, causes early marriage.
Kazi Moshiur Rahman, former General Secretary of Chhinnomul Bastibashi Samannay Sangram Parishad, a welfare association said that around 12,000 children born in the slum so far do not have a birth certificate.
"Applying different authorities we are not getting any solution on it. It is making these children stateless though their parents are Bangladeshi citizen," he added.
The dwellers have come from different areas of the country when they lost their home due to sea-level rise.
However, Chattogram District Administration said they are not issuing their birth certificates in fear of enlisting Rohingyas.
"We want to solve the issue of the birth certificate of these children born with migrant parents in the city," said M Mominur Rahman, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Chattogram District Administration.
Due to stop the easy access of 'Rohingya' in the city, the District Administration is not issuing any birth certificate for slum children, he added.
He said, District Administration is profiling the name of children born in the slums and will be ready within May next and get their certificate after that.
He also said that the government has a vast plan with the climate refugees who are now living in the city, adding that, the government is considering a cluster plan in the coastal areas (Satkhira, Bagerhat and Khulna) to rehabilitate them.
Meanwhile, under the project of 'Ghare Fera Karmachuchi' (Project of back to home), the Bangladesh Government is the processing of making a list of all the slum dwellers in the city from that coastal area.
After the list, the displace people will accommodate in their districts, DC added.
Developed countries are responsible for
Considering that the reasons behind the massive migration from rural to urban centres, primarily Dhaka and Chittagong, happens for both pull factors (mainly search for economic opportunities) as well as push factors ( which includes environmental factors such as a river or coastal erosion).
Attribution of migration to human-induced climate change in the past or present is very difficult, said Saleemul Huq, Director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and one of the country's leading climate scientists.
However, anticipating significant future displacement due to adverse impacts of human-induced climate change over the next decade is a very credible forecast.
The cause of human-induced Climate Change is well established scientifically as being due to emissions of Greenhouse gases over the last two hundred years which absorb the sun's rays and increase the atmospheric temperature. The main emitters of these greenhouse gases over that period have been the rich countries although recently China has overtaken the USA as the biggest emitter.
Bangladesh and other vulnerable developing countries have minimal emissions while the rich countries and China have greater responsibility to reduce their emissions.
Huq, Professor at the Independent University Bangladesh suggested that Bangladesh is likely to be very seriously and adversely impacted by climate change in future but the severity of those adverse impacts can be significantly reduced by taking early and pre-emptive actions by Government, scientists, and all citizens.