A dire situation in Bangladesh

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Photo by Mohon Mondal
Photo: © Mohon Mondal, Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society, Bangladesh.

Estimates assessing how many people will be displaced or forced to migrate because of climate change impacts are wide-ranging. But anecdotes of where climate-related migration is already taking place are beginning to crowd newspapers, radio and television programs, and various internet sources. Other than the low-lying islands which could be completely consumed by rising ocean waters, perhaps nowhere else in the world are these stories more pronounced than in Bangladesh.


Lisa Friedman, a reporter for the online newswire service E&E Daily, recently published a series of heartbreaking stories about Bangladesh’s fight with rising seas and extreme flooding. These stories made an impression on me because they focus on people whose lives are being affected by climate-related impacts today.


  • “Water risks are a part of life in this low-lying country dominated by the reaches of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. But scientists and environmental activists said the September flood, which happened during a lunar high tide, was deeply unusual for the time of year.
  • Even more worrisome, they say, is that climate change is making the unusual more routine. Locals say the result is a massive upheaval of traditional village life.
  • “…Now villagers in Gabura and parts of flood-prone southwest Bangladesh say it might finally be time to leave for good. Dozens of families interviewed along the coast said they have lived the close-knit village life for generations, and they're familiar with the rhythm of temporarily moving along when things get bad. The difference now, they say, is that brothers, husbands and uncles are leaving for the cities in greater numbers than ever before -- and this time, they're not coming home.”

Are stories like this about displaced people going to increase? Yes, if you consider the IPCC’s 2007 sea-level rise estimates. Incidentally, scientists meeting in Copenhagen this week shared new evidence that the 2007 IPCC projections were grossly underestimated – news that paints what is potentially an even more desperate picture than the one reported on by Friedman last week.


Nate Engle

Senior Climate Change Specialist

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