Environmental Pollution and Refugee

Words environmental pollution, chlorofluorocarbon, green house effect and global warming and so on are known to a large number of people and I will not go deep into these discussions. However, I will discuss environmental pollution and its effects on refugee, which is a pressing issue in India and many other developing nations.

Due to Global warming the glaciers of the Himalayas will melt and there is every possibility of rise in sea level in India. It has been discussed that glacier “Gangotri” which is the origin of river Ganges will disappear in the first half of this century and the water in river Ganga will almost dry up. The scanty water will not supply sufficient water for the big civilization of the population of the Indo-Gangotric valley. People of the valley will have to leave their abode in search of new places, being climate refugees (refugees due to climate change). Also rise in sea level will threat coastal areas of Kolkata in India and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Monsoon will be irregular causing floods and droughts, and resulting in a vast population of eastern India to look for new habitation.

The term Climate refugee, has come into existence a decade ago. Andre Boehling, a climate expert, opines that the new category of refugees who are created by the change in climate do not enjoy political protection because of their plight not recognized by their government or by the United Nations. A study by the Red Cross and Red Crescent in year 2000 observed that about 25 million people have left home due to climate change.

In fact the climate refugees have already come forward in Sundarban area in India due to rise in sea level of Bay of Bengal. Again melting of glaciers will over flood the rivers such as Ganga and Brahmaputra in the first phase and hence submerge the low lying areas permenantely of India and Bangladesh. In the second phase, the rivers may gradually dry up. Shri G. AnathaPadmanabham, Executive Director of Green peace India, stated that there will be 35 to 40 million refugees in Bangladesh. This will lead to refugee problems in India in a scale much larger that had occurred in year 1971 (Quoted in The Telegraph, 5th July 2007, page 11 edition). The government of India may deny responsibility, but as but as the refugees of Bangladesh have their families in India, they will try to illegally immigrate into India, resulting in humanitarian issues for Indian government. In Orissa, rising sea level have been gradually washing away the agricultural lands and making people in that area close to refugees.

Nicholas Stern review of the economic impact of climate change predicts that a temperature rise between 2 degree Celsius and 3.5 degree Celsius will cost India a loss of 9% to 25 % respectively of the total agricultural revenue, and 13% of gross domestic product to climate change by 2100; cited by G. Anathapadmanabham in the Telegraph 5th July 2007 edition.

Above statistics can only urge India to take environmental friendly measures to lower carbon use generated from fossil fuel, investing in gas biased power generation avoiding coal based power generating manufacturing stations. On the other hand, India should encourage turning green by growing new forests. Bangladesh government should also come forward with some measures common with India for similar burning issue. Co-operation between two countries can reduce the chances of climate refugees. The environmental friendly measures should not be restricted at the national level, and should be implemented at local levels, such as in small towns and villages with the help of smaller self help groups (NGOs).






Dr Gayathri Bhattacharjee is a retired professor in economics, retired vice principal from Women's college Agartala Tripura.

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