Sample Case Study on Climate-induced Migration and Conflict

Climate-induced Migration and Conflict

  1. What happened? What conflict?

Climate change changes habitats and as a result, the lands’ carrying capacity is no longer able to maintain indigenous population. At the moment, Bangladesh is faced with such a change, and this has compelled the locals to migrate to other resource-rich locations. Sadly, not many locales are unsettled on earth and consequently, such migrants obviously have to encounter local populations (Bhattacharyya and Werz 3). In case resources in the locales are already strained, new additions would obviously encounter stiff resistance. Varying religious and cultural beliefs only heightens the enemity between the two groups because they are fearful that their identities would be dissolved. This is the kind of experience that the Assams are currently experiencing. Bangladesh is made up of the Ganges-Jamuna-Meghna delta, which is recognized as being among the great river deltas on the planet (Gugoff n.p.). As such, floods are a common occurrence here, although their timing and severity seems to be getting increasingly unpredictable.

Over two-thirds of the entire land area in Bangladesh was affected by the recent floods, resulting in irreparable damage to houses, embankments, roads, crops, cattle, fishery, poultry, and all manner of economic infrastructure (Gugoff n.p.). This phenomenon has been made worse by the construction of massive irrigation systems and dams by the Indian government, as well as an inclination towards major natural disasters in Bangladesh. The combined social, political, economic, and institutional factors, coupled with the successive onset of natural disasters, have compelled environmental refugees to move to disease-ridden refugee camps or urban slums that the dangerous militias target, while others opt to migrate outside of Bangladesh (Gugoff n.p.). The Assam region, located in India, is one such migration site for the Bangladeshis. Here, the Bangladeshi migrants, who are predominantly Muslim, have clashed on countless times with the indigenous, who are mostly Hindu.

  1. Climate induced refugees

Climate change has heightened the levels and instances of major floods in Bangladesh. The construction of dams such as the Farraka dam by  the Indian government along major waterways has exacerbated the effects of flooding. During the rainy and summer seasons, strong currents, the alluvial nature of the soil in the delta regions, and the zigzag courses combine to produce serious erosion along riverbanks. Low categories of land remain entirely waterlogged for the better part of the year.  Over 50 percent of Bangladesh lies below 5 m asl (above sea level). This  greatly enhances the dangerous impacts of rising sea level and flooding. Majority of the Bangladeshis either earn their livelihoods from rivers or they live along them. Consequently, when it floods, their homes and livelihoods are lost (Bhattacharyya and Werz 24). Consequently, most of them have been forced to abandon their homes and seek habitable areas. These Bangladeshi environmental refugees have even been forced to migrate to several neighboring countries, such as India and specifically, the Assam region. This migration has however seen them engage in violent clashes with the local populations.

The Assam region in India also has its fair share of problems. This is a remote area that is also under developed. In addition, the region is characterized by competitively low resources. The influx in climate refugees can only be expected to escalate the intensity and frequency of conflicts in the region, further exacerbating the security problem. What has widely been regarded as a climate induced problem could escalate into a global problem (Bhattacharyya and Werz 24). This is because the conflict in the Assam region will pose a threat to the political economy and stability  of many countries across the globe. In addition, this could result in a negative impact on international governance systems.

  1. Why this case is significant in the world? (2 pages)

This case is significant in the world because it depicts that environmental changes are both inevitable and imminent. In addition, the case also shows that climate induced migration can also contribute towards potential crises and conflicts between the immigrants and the inhabitants of the region of migration. When the basic human needs of food, shelter, water, and energy are threatened, as is the case with the Bangladesh following spates of flooding, the internally displaced Bangladeshis are forced to move elsewhere in search of these basic needs (Ziegler n.p.). However, the local community could also be grappling with limited economic resources and the emergence of new entrants creates further tension, and conflicts ensue. In addition, immigrants bring with them varying cultural and religious differences, and these again conflict with the beliefs of the locals, as has happened between the Bangladeshi immigrants and the Assams.

Another implication of this case is that climate change has far-reaching effects even on the habitats not directly affected by it. For example, while Assam may not be directly at risk of flooding due to rising sea levels, on the other hand, the region endures the indirect effects of the rising sea levels in the neighboring Bangladesh. The effect of climate change on Bangladesh, with its dense population, low-lying geography, and the large subsistence agriculture base in the region, leads to the development of push factors for climate-induced migration from Bangladesh to Assam (Bhattacharyya and Werz 29). There is need therefore for the international communities to team up and develop new partnership that will bring relief to the Assam region. This is important in order to not only settle the internally displaced Bangladeshis, but also try and bring to an end this civil conflicts that has resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

Climate-induced migration does not result in poverty reduction but rather, only helps to escalate the problem. In addition, climate change is now integrated with multi-dimensional problems such as the socio-economic, political, and cultural issues, and this only complicates the problem.  The combination of these events lead to a trickle down effect that has an impact on the underlying tensions and could ultimately disrupt the political, economic, and social rhythms (Gugoff n.p.). In Assam, stability is already under threat from mass migration of people and conflict and as a result, the threat has doubled. The combination of ethnicities and religions in Assam, diverse migration patterns, vulnerability to climate changes, and armed conflict, acts as an example of the modern challenges that India faces. In this case, Bangladeshi migrants to Assam are not aware that they are moving to highly vulnerable regions than where they come from, and this only contributes to a vicious cycle.  What we require therefore, is increased responsiveness by governments in the region to the changes in the built and natural environment, and to the needs of their citizens.

Other than the impacts of climate changes, governments in South Asia also need to consider the effects of increased urbanization, development, and increasing demand for services. Failure to address these issues will only cause tension and armed conflicts in the fight against scarce resources, as is the case in Assam. The conflict in Assam is a further depiction of the challenge that climate change poses to the traditional definition of national security. However, in case policy makers in the region respond promptly to this problem, this could be an opportunity to create sustainable peace, as opposed to resorting to the use of weapons and soldiers to deal with the situation.

The effects of climate change will alter conditions and sabotage livelihoods in many regions. Moreover, deteriorating conditions and extreme events could compel many others to leave their homes either permanently or temporarily for another region or country. While rural-urban migration has been common in both Bangladesh and India, this could escalate to higher levels in case climate changes continue to pose a threat to the livelihoods of the rural dwellers, especially those in the agricultural sector. Another option could be international migration, especially to areas where familial, cultural, and historical ties exist across the borders. This means that climate change shall continue to affect the prevailing migration patterns in Bangladesh, both locally and internally (Bhattacharyya and Werz 5).

Works Cited

Bhattacharyya Arpita and Michael Werz.       Climate Change, Migration,

 and Conflict in South             Asia

 Rising Tensions and Policy Options

 across the Subcontinent

.  2012

. Web. 21

April 2015.



Gugoff, Casey. Climate Change and Conflict in Migration from Bangladesh to Assam

            (India). December, 2011. Web. 21 April 2015.


Ziegler, Ashley. India’s Assam Shows Second-Order, Dangerous Effects of Climate Change

            in South Asia. August 13, 2013. Web. 21 April 2015.