Shashank Kumar, New Delhi: On an average, one person every second is displaced by disasters brought on by natural hazards since 2008,
according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
The IDMC estimates that more than 19.3 million people were forced to flee their homes by disasters in 100 countries in 2014. Hundreds of thousands more are still displaced following disasters in previous years.
The latest victims of this global temperature trend are the residents of a tiny village in Alaska, on the north-western tip of North America. The about people 350 that call Newtok home are now resigned to the fact that they can no longer fight the inevitable, as the swollen Ninglick River slowly, but surely, swallows their homes.It is projected that by 2017, the highest point in Newtok — a school building — will be completely submerged by salt water pools formed by the thawing permafrost. Climate change for these Alaskans is more than just a statistic, it has been happening under their feet for the past two decades.
Shoreline erosion is forcing residents to abandon their community as rising water inundates their lives, and the Newtok residents will possibly become the US’ first “climate refugees” — people displaced from their homes by the impact of a changing climate.
And Alaskans are not the only people suffering the effects of this rising temperatures. As glaciers in the Himalayas melt, floodwaters rush to batter the Bay of Bengal, resulting in rising sea levels, increased salinity, destructive floods and cyclones. People living along the coast in Bangladesh are its direct victims.Though no study indisputably proves a direct correlation between climate change and migration, research has shown that the majority of migrants to its capital Dhaka hail from coastal areas. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that 70% of Dhaka’s slum-dwellers moved there fleeing some sort of environmental shock.
A similar situation exists across the border, in the Sundarban delta in West Bengal, where entire villages lie in ghostly silence as their inhabitants relocated inland to save their lives, hopeful to one day return to rebuild their lives if and when the water recedes.
Since 2008, 26.4 million people on average per year have been displaced from their homes by natural disasters.