India Most Vulnerable To Climate-Linked Displacement In South Asia
The report sheds light on how climate-linked natural disasters are compounding existing socioeconomic challenges in the region.
More Indians are being forced to flee their homes due to natural disasters, with the country accounting for almost a fifth of all displacements in Asia.
Over the past decade, India has seen over 4.14 crore internal displacements triggered by disasters, according to a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Asian Development Bank.
That's the highest figure among countries in the South Asian sub-region and the third highest in the continent.
"From India to Bangladesh, and from Nepal to Sri Lanka, floods, storms, and earthquakes drive mass displacement every year," the report said.
"Socioeconomic vulnerability—coupled with population growth in areas prone to hazards—drives disaster displacement risk across the sub-region, including in some of its megacities such as Mumbai and Dhaka."
The report sheds light on how natural disasters, that are becoming deadlier and more frequent due to the climate crisis, are compounding existing socioeconomic challenges in the region.
Communities affected by these disasters often see their developmental gains erode and lead to fragile stability. And without governments actively intervening to address this risk, the challenge of disaster displacement is set to increase.
Displaced people often lose their land and property, while their ability to earn a living and contribute to the economy may be compromised.IDMC-ADB Report
Between 2010 and 2021, there were over 22.5 crore disaster displacements across Asia. South Asia saw 6.1 crore, with floods and storms being the biggest driver.
Longer-than-usual monsoon seasons are to blame, the report said. Their frequency and intensity have been impacted by the variations in the El Niño Southern Oscillation, a climate phenomenon that dictates temperature and rains across the globe.
The authors cited the example of India's monsoon season last year to make their case. In India, the Southwest monsoon season, which usually lasts from June to September, went on for a month longer. That meant it overlapped with the onset of the Northeast monsoon.
"This rare phenomenon brought unusually heavy rains and floods to several southern Indian states and triggered 3,12,000 displacements in Tamil Nadu in November," the report said.
As climate change contributes to more prolonged and erratic monsoon seasons, the impact of seasonal flooding in South Asia may continue to have devastating consequences.IDMC-ADB Report
The report said that rising sea levels are causing more devastating storm surges, putting an increasing number of people living along the coast at risk.
It further said that the Asia and Pacific region are seeing annual economic losses caused by disasters of up to $780 billion, about 2.5% of the region's GDP. In the worst case scenario, these losses could nearly double by 2059.
Current efforts are simply not enough to mitigate challenges arising from displacement. The report said that governments already have existing tools to tackle this issue.
"What is needed now is a more explicit inclusion of displacement as a key feature of disaster risk in national planning and investments."
"The direct and indirect cost of displacement from disasters must be factored into preparedness and contingency planning and long-term development planning processes," it said.
It called on countries to start including displacement metrics in national indicators and start calculating the costs of displacement in a consistent, systemic manner.
And Asian countries will have to step up to fill this gap, it said. "If disaster displacement across the world needs to be addressed, it needs to start here."