This post was written by Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher and MA in International Studies at Simon Fraser University.
Over the next 30 years, some 30-40 million Bangladeshis will take what they can from their homes and move to higher ground. They will pour into Dhaka and other Bangladeshi cities, overflowing the already expansive slums and bastees; they will cross international borders into India, Myanmar and other countries looking for livelihoods, homes and some semblance of security for their families. This mass of humanity, at least equal in size to the entire population of Canada, will not be pulled to the cities by the promise of a better future. Theirs will not be an economic migration associated with new opportunities, but instead a forced exodus driven by an unprecedented environmental calamity that they have played virtually no part in causing. They will make up the largest group of climate refugees this world has ever seen.
Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated deltaic country. More than half of the country’s 160 million inhabitants make their homes on a massive delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. A one-meter rise in the sea level – as is predicted by some of the most conservative climate change models – would inundate roughly a third of Bangladesh’s land and trigger a forced migration unprecedented in its scale.