International Migrants Day 2022 and our Environment

    19-Dec-2022
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N Munal Meitei
International Migrants’ Day is celebrated on 18th December and this year’s theme is, “Together we heal, learn and shine”. This day is an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, promote respect to their basic human rights.
In the face of a mounting humanitarian crisis, extreme weather events, triggered by global warming and the resultant climate change have pushed the number of migrants around the world. Climate change is undoubtedly causing extreme weather events, leading to unheard of disasters across the world. Natural disasters have always been regarded as the reason for sudden displacement or migration. But over the few decades, it has probed, climate change is the primary inducer for large-scale migration.
IIT, Kharagpur has found a convincing evidence for the popular hypothesis that climate change caused human migration during and after the Indus Valley Civilisation. In the study, published in Elsevier journal in November 2019, the author, Anindya Sarkar reported that over the last 7,000 years, people were forced to migrate for greener regions. The human migrations at that time were initiated due to decrease in monsoon, drying up rivers and agricultural failure. Back in 1990, IPCC also noted that the single greatest impact of climate change will be on human migration.
World Migration Report 2020 believes that more than 1.2 billion people will be forced to flee their homes by 2050 and the role of natural disasters in migration is much more than by conflict and violence. Extreme weather events – from floods and storms, to heatwaves and drought – are already displacing an estimated 41 people each minute.
India with 2.7 million people, had the highest number of people displaced by disasters and extreme weather events in 2019. In the year, 28 million were internally displaced people in 148 countries, 61% due to disasters and 39% were due to conflict and violence. Desertification is also silently fueling conflicts. Rise in migration due to disasters has proved on increasing human trafficking in our country upto 20-30%.
Migration also brings about the form of modern-day slavery. The climate crisis is reshaping our world. To date, migration has been mostly internal and increasingly an urban phenomenon to earn livelihood. Most people displaced or migrating as a result of climate impacts are accelerating trend of global displacement particularly where climate change interacts with conflict and violence.
Migration may be temporary, seasonal, circular, or permanent and may be forced by increasingly severe conditions or occur as a proactive strategy in the face of climate impacts to livelihoods and wellbeing. According to a survey, the economic challenges, poverty, famine, flood, conflict or disaster can facilitate the increased number of migrants across the world.
The migrant populations are also considered as people who are inactive in search of a decent job and affordable life. Currently approximately 281 million people are international migrants living in a country other than their country of birth.
The migrants are also playing a crucial role in determining the growth and development of a country. The potential migration is harnessed by many countries across the world while protecting the basic human rights of the citizens across the world.
The rootlessness and the lack of a sense of belonging are the problems faced by the migrant population across the world. The migration may be the result of the compulsion or the personal choice for a better life. Unemployment is one of the key factors that contribute to the migration of people globally. The eviction is another factor that led many to migration.
While most climate-related migration currently occurs within countries, desperation and deteriorating environments can also compel people to seek a livelihood elsewhere through irregular migration. While climate change negatively impacts everyone, everywhere, those already in vulnerable situations due to geography, poverty, gender, age, disability, origin or other status, including migrant women who depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods, and children who are less able to survive extreme weather events, are at the greatest risk of suffering harm.
It is imperative to recognize this reality and take meaningful action to protect the rights of those affected by climate change, including the migrants. The inter-linkages between climate change, human rights and migration to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is inextricable for the present and future generations.
The writer is an environmentalist