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Bangladesh on frontline of mass migrations

January 20, 2010

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Source: United News of Bangladesh

About 15 million (1.5 crore) people in Bangladesh alone could be on the move by 2050 because of climate change, causing the worst migration in human history.

“They’ll get displaced as temperatures are rising and desertification has set in where rainfall is needed most. They’ll be on the move since more potent monsoons are making flood-prone areas worse,” said AFM Shahidur Rahman, an environmentalist.

“They’ll desert their homesteads because they’ll find their villages under water due to sea-level rise caused by melting glaciers, and the slow and deadly seepage of saline water into their wells and fields,” he added.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a minimum of 207 million people in Latin America, Asia and Africa will not have enough water inside a decade.

In Asia, an extra 130 million people will be at risk of hunger by the middle of the century. By 2100, crop revenues in Africa will drop 90 percent. And scientists see Bangladesh as ground zero. The country’s 150 million inhabitants live in the delta of three waterways about the size of Iowa, and the majority of the country sits less than 20 feet above sea level.

The IPCC statistics show that rising sea levels will wipe out more cultivated land in Bangladesh than anywhere in the world. By 2050, rice production is expected to drop 10 percent and wheat production by 30 percent.

Experts say the first shifts will start within countries. Scientists see families flocking from rural and coastal areas to cities where livelihoods are less tied to fickle weather patterns. It’s a pattern that is already happening against a background of rapid global urbanization, in which the desperate rate of urban population growth far outpaces jobs and infrastructure.

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