Migration across the Bay of Bengal has a long history, but it has recently reemerged in the international spotlight, along with debates about the push and pull factors that have prompted thousands of people to risk their lives at sea rather than remain in Myanmar or Bangladesh. Yet there is one important factor missing from this discussion: climate change.
In the coming decades, migration across the Bay of Bengal is likely to increase as the impacts of climate change become more frequent and severe. Predictions indicate that climate change will dramatically affect countries ringing the Bay, and climate change migration in wider South and Southeast Asia will be extensive. Southeast Asia is home to the highest annual rate of growth in migration globally, and displacement is already being caused by projects justified as climate change mitigation or adaptation strategies.
The persecution and poverty in Bangladesh and Myanmar that is prompting the present population movement needs to be understood and addressed. But forward thinking is also necessary: these two countries will be among the hardest hit by climate change. The impacts of climate change will produce increasing migration as the environment is degraded, extreme weather events intensify, and economic conditions deteriorate.
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This article is part of “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” an ongoing series by The Diplomat for summer and fall 2015 featuring exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis. All articles in the series can be found here.
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