Forced migrations often results in psycho-social health issues| Photo: Atul Pandey on Unsplash

Climate inaction will force over 45 million in India to migrate from home by 2050- Report

62 million people will be displaced by 2050 in South Asia alone, says the report

Over 45 million people in India will be forced to migrate from their houses by 2050 unless it acts now to mitigate effects of climate change states a report released by Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) and ActionAid International.

The statistics of forceful migration in 2020 stands at 1.4 crore.

The report ‘Cost of Climate Inaction: Displacement and Distress Migration’ delves into how climate change has affected displacement and distress migration in five South Asian countries- Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to the report, over 62 million people will be displaced by 2050 in South Asia alone. The figures do not include people displaced by sudden onset of climate disasters like flooding and cyclones.

People/Areas Vulnerable to Climate Change

The report notes that the impact of climate change, floods and cyclones is more on small farmers, women, children, older and disabled people and communities in detention. It mentions that the main source of livelihood of the South Asian countries is fisheries and agriculture which makes them more vulnerable to climatic variability.

India which has 60% of rain-fed agriculture is highly sensitive to the effects of crop-destroying climatic shocks that is further accentuated by decades of rural poverty and state neglect of small-holder farmers.

It reveals that 50% of the women employed in the labour force in South Asia are either engaged independently or as unpaid workers. Moreover, women in these regions face several socio-cultural and economic barriers which make them less prepared to cope with the disaster.

“Lower participation in the household or financial decision-making, lack of mobility, and exposure to insecurity or gender violence only increase their vulnerability to the impacts of climate disasters,” states the report.

Geographically vulnerable areas like Sundarbans and Mahanadi delta in India are subjected to more frequent climate change threats like rising in the sea level and salinification due to which it will record a greater number of relocations within the next decades.

Impact of Forced Migration

Forced migration often results in people migrating to unknown urban territories where they are forced to take poorly waged unskilled job causing psycho-social health issues. Even after moving, the families may have to face further displacement.

“Informal settlements are more likely to be built on terrain that is at greater risk of flooding, leaving displaced communities at risk of re-displacement,” mentions the report.

It reveals that in South Asia, a majority of young people migrate due to lack of decent employment, education and access to social services. Remittances sent by India’s 100 million internal migrants represent financial flows eight times greater than the Indian state’s combined expenditure on health and education.

According to the report, the problems faced by women in all five countries due to climate-induced displacement is the same. Migration of male members has led to the feminization of agriculture with women single handedly managing agricultural production along with home chores . This has affected a majority of young girls as communities rely more on them. It has burdened them with too much work at a tender age, says the report.

The slow onset of climate impacts can cause countries in South Asia to lose nearly 2% of their GDP by 2050 which might result in an estimated 9% loss by 2100, states the report.

“Other estimates acknowledge that people living in poverty will be hardest hit by climate hazards, and countries in South Asia could see 7 to 13% of their GDP at risk every year by 2050.”

Role of developed countries in climate change

Global efforts have been put to achieve the 1.5-degree Celsius temperature warming limit as per the Paris Agreement. The report states that wealthy countries have the highest-level capacity to contribute in meeting the global temperature target but they are currently failing to make the impact.

The European Union and the United States of America only contribute one-fifth of their fair share of mitigation efforts, reveals the report. This failure will drive distress migration and extreme hardship in South Asia and across developing countries.

It further adds that financial contribution from the developed world towards climate action has been “perilously low.”

“While reported public climate finance for developing countries amounted to USD 69.5 billion per year between 2017 and 2019 (just over half of the target), the real value (once loan repayments, interest, and finance not directly targeting climate action were discounted) was only a third of the reported figure (USD 19 – 22.5 billion per year).”


The report suggests a holistic approach to reduce displacement and distress migration in South Asia. It calls for strong leadership and more support from rich countries to the South Asian nations to scale-up climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

It recommends strong policies and access to social protection measures to ensure employment, education and participation of vulnerable communities. It further advocates for the inclusion of climate-induced migration on the agenda of intergovernmental bodies like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

A shift from traditional agricultural practices to agro-ecological farming methods will increase farmers’ ability to withstand climate impacts, says the report. It also advocates a transition from fossil fuels and carbon-intensive sectors to renewable energy.

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