Dhaka: the city where climate refugees are already a reality

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Dhaka: the city where climate refugees are already a reality

Dhaka: the city where climate refugees are already a reality

Every day, another 2,000 people move to the Bangladeshi capital. It’s nothing new – for generations Dhaka has been a magnet for those escaping rural poverty – but now climate change is accelerating the race to the city

Parul Akter travelled across Bangladesh to escape the flood waters, but they seem to have followed her. The shack she shares with her husband and four children in Dhaka, the nation’s capital, sits on the edge of the sprawling Korail slum – next to a lake. When it rains, dank water sloshes into their shelter. Only the bed, raised up on bricks, stays dry. “This room is all we have, so we need to stay here no matter what happens,” said Akter.

Seven years ago, a monsoon flood left nothing standing in their village, located in Bhola on the country’s south-west coast. “We had no option but to climb up the banks with our belongings immediately,” said Akter. “Within a week, we moved to Dhaka to start a new life.”

Every day, some 2,000 people settle in the Bangladeshi capital. It’s nothing new – for generations the city has been a magnet for men and women escaping rural poverty. But now there’s another driver that experts say has accelerated the race to the capital: the Earth’s changing climate, which has already made life extremely difficult in stretches of this pancake-flat country threaded with rivers. In the coming decades, millions more “climate refugees” around the world are expected to make similar journeys. In a cruel irony, many will wind up in cities even more ill-equipped to withstand the changing climate.

Bangladesh contributes just 0.4 metric tonnes per capita to the carbon emissions fuelling climate change (the US produces 17 and the UK 7.1), but will suffer its effects badly. Within three decades, the country is expected to be at least 2C hotter. By 2080, the seas could be 2ft higher. […]

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