Poetics of climate crisis in India


In 2018, an HSBC Bank report ranked India as most vulnerable to climate crisis after assessing a total of 67 developed, emerging and frontier markets, on vulnerability to physical impacts of climate crisis, sensitivity to extreme weather events, and ability to respond to climate crisis.

In the same year, disasters displaced 2.7 million people in India – highest in the region – out of which 2 million were weather related, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

By May this year, 43% of India experienced drought, with failed monsoon rains seen as the primary reason forcing about eight million farmers in just two states of India to flee.

Despite all these, the government’s budget of 2019-20 turned a blind eye to climate crisis and was far away from even recognizing the challenge of climate induced displacement. There is no protection available to those who migrate for survival and are compelled to live in informal settlements without proper access to basic services such as water, sanitation, waste management, healthcare and education. Young women, who are forced to cross borders to India alone from neighboring countries, can be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The report, Climate Change Knows No Borders, by ActionAid, Climate Action Network South Asia and Bread for the World, Germany, highlighted “push factors” include conflict, poverty, land access and ethnicity, while there were also many “pull factors” such as development, livelihoods, seasonal labor, kinship and access to health or services.

I would like to underline the recommendations of the report that governments must collect climate migration data, develop gender sensitive policies and strengthen resilience. It is important that the government must also involve civil society and neighboring governments to take measures such as establishing regional early warning systems, creating food banks, reskilling young people and ensuring equitable approaches to trans-boundary water governance to avert, minimize and address forced migration while safeguarding human rights.


Harjeet Singh is the global lead on climate change for ActionAid. He is an expert
on issues related to climate impacts, migration and adaptation.


Reference: Perspectives Asia, Issue 8, November 2019

Governments must collect climate migration data, develop gender sensitive policies and strengthen resilience.
Harjeet Singh


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