The growing impacts of climate change have already pushed more than 18 million people to migrate within South Asian countries, but that could more than triple if global warming continues on its current path, researchers warned on recently.
Nearly 63 million people could be forced from their homes by 2050 in the region as rising seas and rivers swallow villages, and drought-hit land no longer supports crops, said ActionAid International and Climate Action Network South Asia in a report.
The projection does not include those who will be forced to flee sudden disasters such as floods and cyclones and so is likely an under-estimate, noted Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid. He said the situation could become “catastrophic”.
Many will head from rural areas to towns and cities in their own countries, in search of work, he said.
There they often end up living in slum areas exposed to flooding and with very limited access to social services, doing precarious jobs such as rickshaw-pulling, construction or garment-making.
“Policy makers in the Global North and the Global South are not yet waking up to this reality,” Singh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “They are not realizing the scale of the problem, and how we are going to deal with (it).”