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The Next Wave of Climate Refugees

nahtanbob

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“We were so terrified with the water coming into the house and the sound of the storm. In front of my eyes, the walls of our house collapsed.” That’s Geeta Maiti, a resident of Mousuni Island, which is part of the Indian Sundarbans—a 4,000-square-mile archipelago that has been designated a World Heritage site. Sitting on the Bay of Bengal, shared by India and Bangladesh, the region has a rich ecosystem that supports the world’s largest mangrove forest and several hundred animal species, including the endangered Bengal tiger. It is home to approximately 13 million people.


All of this could disappear in just a few decades. The Sundarbans is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change in the world; 70 percentof the land is just a few feet above sea level. In some parts of the region, the sea is already advancing about 200 yards a year. Mousuni Island, in particular, is experiencing the worst effects of the changing climate. Coastal erosion, floods, salinity ingression, and increasingly violent storms have rendered most of the land barren. In the past decade, the island’s inhabitants have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed. It is now primarily home to women, children, and elderly people, as more than half of the male population has migrated to urban areas for work. Some families have been forced to leave entirely. What was once a self-sustaining agricultural community is now on the front lines of the climate crisis.


The journalists Lisa Hornak and Erin Stone traveled to Mousuni Island to see what life was like for the island’s remaining inhabitants. Their short documentary, Losing Ground, premiering on The Atlantic today, hears from people who fear they will become the next wave of climate refugees—and some who already have. (In 1996, the Sundarbans island of Lohachara became the first inhabited island in the world to be submerged by the sea, and its inhabitants the world’s first climate refugees.)


“We are born farmers,” says one of the men from Mousuni Island in the film. “We don’t have the capacity to do different work. What else can we do? We are surviving, barely.”


Stone says that many climate refugees from across the Sundarbans have migrated to Dhaka, Bangladesh, and now live in conditions of “intense crowding and poverty.” Some families migrated as far as the Middle East to look for work. Hornak told me that this phenomenon is indicative of a growing trend. “We will likely see a shift in how our societies are structured,” she said.


While the economic and geopolitical struggles facing the residents of Mousuni Island are salient, the film also focuses on the emotional toll that the permanent environmental changes have taken on residents.


“I wanted to pursue a story that centered [on] people’s internal worlds as they experienced the intense external pressures caused by climate change and poverty,” Stone told me. She hoped these stories might help humanize the plight of climate refugees. “Many people can understand the pain of a loved one having to move or travel seasonally for work. Many people can understand the devastation that would be caused if they lost their home or livelihood. Everyone can understand love. Everyone can understand the importance of home—and imagine the trauma of being forcibly displaced from it.”


Hornak pointed out one of the great tragedies of the situation in the Sundarbans: Mangrove forests are some of the most effective known carbon sinks. In other words, mangroves naturally remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in their soil, a process known as carbon sequestration. (A 2017 study showed that Sundarbans mangroves removed 98 percent of the carbon emitted by a local power plant in one year from the atmosphere.)


What’s more, the inhabitants of the Sundarbans produce a nominal carbon footprint compared with much of the rest of the world. Stone said this unequal distribution of climate consequences is likely to continue. “It is the people who have almost zero contribution to the greenhouse gases that fuel global heating who are most impacted.”



We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Author: Emily Buder
 

Riyaz Syed

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I have read that Bangladesh is going to badly affected by climate change.

India should accept climate refugees from Bangladesh with open arms.
 

pothead

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Why can't they go to 50+ Islamic nations?
Many of them like Saudi have ample land as well as money to absorb them.

And above all, in this modern age, transport is not an issue.

You can empty whole of Bangladesh and send them to Saudi in few months.

So, whats the problem in going to Saudi, Iran, Egypt, Afrika etc?
 

Riyaz Syed

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Why can't they go to 50+ Islamic nations?
Many of them like Saudi have ample land as well as money to absorb them.

And above all, in this modern age, transport is not an issue.

You can empty whole of Bangladesh and send them to Saudi in few months.

So, whats the problem in going to Saudi, Iran, Egypt, Afrika etc?
India shares border with Bangladesh. We have cultural similarities.
tens of million poor can't immigrate to middle east.
 

nahtanbob

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India shares border with Bangladesh. We have cultural similarities.
tens of million poor can't immigrate to middle east.
if people care about their future they will have one child per family and reduce the population
it is not like bangladesh or india has not been warned

otherwise live at allah's mercy
 

Riyaz Syed

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if people care about their future they will have one child per family and reduce the population
it is not like bangladesh or india has not been warned

otherwise live at allah's mercy
children are gift from Allah. Muslims love children. We are not asking others to practice family planning.

People migrate. You cannot stop migration.

Shameful targeting of millions of Bangladeshi Muslims who have lived in India for 30-40 years is wrong. You cannot send them back. This will only radicalize Muslim community of India.
 

pothead

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India shares border with Bangladesh. We have cultural similarities.
tens of million poor can't immigrate to middle east.
Cultural similarities?
Do they do Ram navami celerations?
Durga pooja?
celebrate Pongal?
Or rakhi?

They have more common culture going on with Middle east countries than India & more importantly these Middle East countries are much richer and have land to spare.

Transport is not an issue in this day and age.
 

nahtanbob

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children are gift from Allah. Muslims love children. We are not asking others to practice family planning.

People migrate. You cannot stop migration.

Shameful targeting of millions of Bangladeshi Muslims who have lived in India for 30-40 years is wrong. You cannot send them back. This will only radicalize Muslim community of India.
you can ask Allah to shelter and to feed them

as far as migration goes good luck with that
 

Riyaz Syed

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Cultural similarities?
Do they do Ram navami celerations?
Durga pooja?
celebrate Pongal?
Or rakhi?

They have more common culture going on with Middle east countries than India & more importantly these Middle East countries are much richer and have land to spare.

Transport is not an issue in this day and age.
These are religious practices not cultural

you can ask Allah to shelter and to feed them

as far as migration goes good luck with that
The whole world is Allah's creation. They can move anywhere.

Migration is different to illegally entering some ones home.
If their land sinks, they will have no choice but to migrate to India.

You communalize this issue. Then Muslim community will get radicalized. Then don't blame Muslims. Gandhiji would have accepted them if he were alive. We need think of humanity.
 

nahtanbob

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These are religious practices not cultural


The whole world is Allah's creation. They can move anywhere.


If their land sinks, they will have no choice but to migrate to India.

You communalize this issue. Then Muslim community will get radicalized. Then don't blame Muslims. Gandhiji would have accepted them if he were alive. We need think of humanity.
I am not going think of humanity if some fucking idiot is not going to use his brains and not going to practice birth control
 

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