Climate Migration and its Impact on Poor and Marginalized Communities: A Case Study from Bangladesh

Session Report
Mansi Garg

Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward is an Online International Monsoon School Program, a Six-Week Immersive Online Introductory Certificate Training Course from August-September 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on“Climate Migration and its Impact on Poor and Marginalized Communities: A Case Study from Bangladesh”was held on the 19th of August 2023 by, Dr. Reazul Ahsan, an accomplished Associate Professor associated with the Urban Ecology Program at the University of Utah Asia Campus situated in Incheon, South Korea.


At the commencement of the session he embarked upon an engaging and enlightening journey. He adeptly set the tone by introducing a captivating quiz that delved into the intricate subject of climate migration and its multifaceted implications for marginalized communities. The scope of the quiz encompassed a comprehensive spectrum of vital aspects, notably spanning economic migration as well as the classical form of migration. This ingenious approach not only piqued the participants’ curiosity but also initiated a dynamic and interactive discourse, effectively involving the attendees in the intellectual exploration of this pressing issue.

Push and Pull Factors of Migration

Within the context of the United States, the discourse surrounding climate migration reveals diverse perspectives. The narrative intertwines with varying summer seasons, prompting contemplation and prompting us to probe deeper into this phenomenon. This reflection prompts a consideration of the different forms and dimensions of climate migration, arousing a sense of intrigue and curiosity as we attempt to comprehend its essence.

Taking a closer look, economic migration emerges as a pivotal focal point, characterized by a dual interplay of push and pull factors. On one hand, the push dynamic is rooted in the circumstances of economic deprivation, particularly prevalent in regions like India and Bangladesh. Here, marginalized communities are impelled to seek better prospects and improved living conditions.

Conversely, the pull facet comes into play when more favorable opportunities beckon, often triggered by observations of neighbors and relatives who have found improved prospects in foreign lands. This economic migration paradigm is intrinsic to the migration narrative.

However, a more traditional notion of migration also persists, one that extends beyond economic factors. It transcends the realm of financial considerations, focusing instead on the pursuit of safety and security. In this perspective, individuals and communities seek refuge in locations deemed safer, thereby upholding a time-honored tradition of migration rooted in the human instinct to ensure well-being and prosperity.

This holistic understanding presents a nuanced portrayal of climate migration, encapsulating a multifaceted interplay of economic motivations, societal dynamics, and the elemental instinct for security.

Bangladesh: Case Study

Bangladesh is a major example in which the speaker’s talk was based. Over 7.1 million Bangladeshis were displaced by climate change in 2021 and will reach 13.3 million by 2050, said WHO. Due to the disasters taking place in those areas, and cyclones happening, people accommodate themselves on public land, on drainage networks, on sewage treatment plants, and live the lowest standard of life. Some more analysis of statistical data was presented by the speaker to make participants understand some significant impacts on the lives of poor and marginalized communities.

The housing situation involves inadequate access to fresh water, an absence of proper sanitation, and a lack of employment opportunities. These challenges stem from the fact that the individuals affected are residing on public lands without secure land rights. This precarious situation is exacerbated by financial constraints, with most lacking the resources to address their needs.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that this issue isn’t confined to political matters or election opposition. Many have been forced to migrate due to climate change impacts, finding themselves in a similar predicament in Bangladesh, without a stable place to call home.

Bangladesh has experienced significant migration due to the impact of shifting climate patterns, particularly the altered rain trough cycles. This phenomenon has led to the displacement of 7.1 million people, a number exceeding the entire populations of many countries, such as Malta with 4 million people. Amidst this, the absence of comprehensive plans or sustainable strategies compounds the challenge. This scenario extends across various regions, encompassing nations like Myanmar, India, and more.

Notably, the coastal regions, home to around 32 million people, are particularly vulnerable, with projections indicating that a one-meter sea level rise could imperil 15 million individuals. A more extreme scenario, involving a 1.5-meter rise, could result in the displacement of up to 18 million residents, with the financially capable seeking refuge in larger countries.

Internal migration further complicates matters, making it difficult to differentiate voluntary migration from climate-induced movement. Data from 1996 to 2009 suggests that around 350,000 people have been affected. Notably, 30% of these migrations can be attributed to cyclical weather patterns, with cyclones being a recurring event affecting nearly 90% of cyclone-prone Bangladesh. Over the years, significant migration has been observed, with periods like 2004 and post-2010 experiencing noteworthy spikes.

Climate migration is a critical issue in Bangladesh, where it’s estimated that 75% of surveyed migrants have been compelled to move due to climate-related factors. The temperature increase over time and the intensification of cyclones are evident indicators of the changing weather patterns. For instance, the year 2011 saw a significant cyclone, Cyclone Aila, resulting in extensive displacement and the creation of informal settlements. This underscores the profound impact of climate change on housing and migration dynamics, a reality that necessitates urgent attention and strategic planning.


In summary, Dr. Ahsan highlighted the implementation of several critical policies in Bangladesh, such as the National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) in 2005 and the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2008. These policies serve as vital frameworks for addressing the country’s climate challenges. Furthermore, the discussion extended to policies at the national level, encompassing the Five-Year Plan, the National Plan for Disaster Management 2010-2015, and the Perspective Plan. These initiatives collectively underscore the nation’s proactive stance in confronting climate-related issues and charting a comprehensive path toward resilience and sustainable development.

Acknowledgement: Mansi Gang is a research intern at IMPRI.

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