Population movement in response to climate- related hazards in Bangladesh: the ‘last resort’




Penning-Rowsell, E. C.
Sultana, P.
Thompson, P.


Population movement in response to climate- related hazards in Bangladesh: the ‘last resort’




Government Office for Science UK


This case study seeks to understand trends in hazard losses and the implications of water- related disasters for human migration over recent decades in Bangladesh. It examines whether comparable events caused more damage in the past than today and what lessons can be learned from Bangladesh’s experiences – and by whom – that could be transferred to other countries facing similar environmental circumstances (or countries that might face similar environmental circumstances to Bangladesh in the next 20–40 years). The case study seeks to tease out issues related to building resilience, resettlement and technological developments, specifically why some locations are now more resilient than others (perhaps due to innovations such as cyclone-proof houses), whether some hazard-prone areas have been depopulated and why, and how far, advances in technology and early-warning systems have in turn facilitated population movements to safe havens at times of hazard and as part of post-event recovery. These movements may have been either permanent or temporary, very localised or over relatively longer distances (e.g. 200 kilometres). The effects of rural infrastructure on evacuations (even such ‘basic’ things as rural roads) are also considered, as are any restrictions on mobility that affect resettlement and/or evacuations, what arrangements there have been – and are now – for pre-planning for evacuations, and any gender or wealth effects of significance related to disaster preparedness, resettlement or evacuation. The case study deliberately relies as much as possible on quantitative data and the results of systematic qualitative research including recent fieldwork. But, as will be clear, often quantitative assessments of hazard impacts and human responses (e.g. evacuation rates) do not agree with each other in detail. Some surveys are based on small samples, in restricted geographical areas, and some analyses give results that were premature and do not reflect the full hazard effects as they play out over time. Some official documents may be overoptimistic about the effects of state interventions. Charities are not immune from overemphasising their impact. Surveys from organisations foreign to Bangladesh may have misinterpreted the local scene. Also, it must be carefully borne in mind that in comparing different hazard events one is nearly always not comparing like with like: no two cyclones are the same or affect the same areas, each flood has subtly different characteristics from the previous one, and so on.


Penning-Rowsell, E. C., Sultana, P., & Thompson, P. (2011). Population movement in response to climate- related hazards in Bangladesh: the ‘last resort’. London : Government Office for Science UK.

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