A Study of Climate Change-Induced Migration in the Sundarbans Mangrove Region in the Last Ten Years

Geeta Kiran Gunjal
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Symbiosis International (Deemed University)


This paper focuses on the Sundarban region shared by India and Bangladesh. Several natural calamities caused due to climate change have had a significant impact on the region, its unique ecosystem, and its population. The livelihoods of people in the region are affected by repeatedly having to withstand the worst of various natural calamities. However, due to a lack of aid and compensation for losses, people have to migrate to safer places, searching for new income opportunities. This paper looks at the following two questions: first, what is the impact of climate change that causes forced climate migration in the Sundarbans mangrove region? Second, what are the solutions implemented across India and Bangladesh to manage the issue in the last ten years? Using data from secondary sources I describe the ways in which factors such as rise in sea level, cyclones, and increase in the salinity of water, impact primary sources of income like agriculture and fishing for the people in the region, and how this eventually results in forced climate migration. I also explore the role of government policies — both of India and Bangladesh — in addressing the phenomenon of forced climate migration.

Keywords: forced climate migration, Sunderbans, climate change, India, Bangladesh, natural calamities, government action.


The recent Amphan cyclone in 2020 has once again highlighted the vulnerability of life in the Sundarbans region. The region is divided between two countries, India and Bangladesh. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Sundarbans region as a World Heritage Site in 1987, and a Biosphere Reserve in 2001. The Sundarbans region is rich in natural resources and is able to support a wide variety of animal and plant species. The Sundarban region is famous for its Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and Sundari trees (Heritiera fomes). The livelihood of the local residents is dependent on the resources that are provided by the environment. People migrating to different regions is not a new phenomenon in the Indian context. In the past, dating back to Indus Valley civilisation, there has been human migration due to climate change. Researchers have considered various factors to explain decline of the Indus Valley civilisation (Sarma, 1977) including periodic flooding as there is evidence of water deposited silts (Dales, 1966). The Sundarbans area also suffers from the same phenomenon of flooding, primarily caused by cyclones, which is increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. For the Sundarbans region, evidence of climate change can be traced back to the colonial period. There are records of cyclones overrunning the region even though their impact was not recorded (Danda, 2020).

Sundarbans did not have a large number of human settlements until the 19th century. During colonial rule, the British took initiatives to use part of the region for economic benefit, and therefore, people migrated and settled here (Ghosh, et al., 2015). They used the resources in the region, and within a few years, the population of the place increased. The main occupation of the population was agriculture, fishing, extracting honey and selling woods.

As the British tried to benefit from the region, they also recorded the natural calamities it had faced. In 1811, an initiative was taken to clear Sagar Island. A large area was cleared, construction undertaken, and people settled there. However, in 1831, 1832, 1833, cyclones struck, and settlements witnessed significant damages (Samanta, 1997). The region witnessed many cyclones in the latter half of the 19th century as well – in 1840, 1848, 1850, 1851, 1976, 1885, 1901 (Samanta, 1997), and relatively more damaging cyclones in 1864, 1867, 1874, and 1942 (Samanta, 1997). Settlers decided to leave the region, but the government waived taxes to encourage the people to stay (Danda, 2020). The 1864 cyclone was the most devastating one and caused significant damage to lives and property and to the embankments as well (Samanta, 1997). The 1867 storm also reduced cultivable areas (Samanta, 1997). As seen above, the region is vulnerable and has been affected by various natural calamities. The region’s landscape and location play an important role in understanding why it is vulnerable to natural calamities.

The landscape of the Sundarbans region is unique, and includes many water channels. The sea has a significant impact on the Sundarban island, and tides shape the island’s physical features (Ghosh et al., 2015).  This region is cyclone prone, receives heavy rainfall, and is low-lying. The intensity of natural calamities has increased in recent years due to climate change.  The region faces a significant threat from rising sea levels. Studies have highlighted that the rise in sea level is one of the biggest threats for the region as many islands have already submerged or are on the verge of being submerged (Mahadevia & Vikas, 2012; Bera, 2013; Ghosh et al., 2014). Another threat that the region faces is annual cyclones. The Amphan cyclone in 2020 and earlier cyclones like Aila (2009) and Sidr (2007) are examples of cyclones so strong that they caused massive destruction and suffering. A third major threat that the region faces is increased salinity (related with increasing inflow of sea water due to rising sea levels), affecting agriculture and freshwater required for fishing (Mahadevia & Vikas, 2012). Lastly, floods (Government of West Bengal, 2015) caused by increasing rainfall, storm activity and high tides, all of which caused due to significant changes in climate, are also a major threat faced by the region.

The infrastructure of the Sundarban region is fragile because the region is isolated. It is underdeveloped, and the entire region has a narrow railway and road network (Government of West Bengal, 2009). Electricity supply is also a substantial problem in the region. The West Bengal government planned to provide subsidies for solar energy, but the attempt has been hampered because of resource constraints (Government of West Bengal, 2009). There are at least a few island blocks that have no direct connection by road to the mainland. The weak infrastructure increases the difficulties faced by people when struck by natural calamities, making even survival difficult. 

The above-mentioned environmental shocks lead to an increase in migration outside the region. “Climate refugee” is still not explicitly acknowledged as a specific category eligible for protection under international law refugees. In my paper, I have used the term “forced climate migrants” as suggested by the International Organization for Migration (Brown, 2008, p. 15). In this paper, I focus on the following research questions: first, what is the impact of climate change that causes forced climate migration in the Sundarbans mangrove region? Second, what are the solutions implemented across India and Bangladesh to manage the issue in the last ten years?


The methodology that I am using in this work is case study analysis. I focus on the ramifications of climate change in the region and how they result in forced climate migration. I also focus on the solutions provided by governments of both India and Bangladesh in the last ten years to tackle the problems caused by climate change. The region has been facing the consequences of climate change in the last four decades, which has had a significant impact on its population (Ghosh, Bose & Bramhachari, 2018). However, before the last decade the region experienced two intensive cyclones (2007, 2009) the impact of which are still borne by the population. In 2020, the region was hit by the cyclone Amphan, which was considered to be a super cyclone (Ellispetersen & Ratcliffe, 2020). These developments make it important to analyse the impact of climate change in the last decade. For this study, I mainly rely on secondary sources such as newspaper articles about natural calamities in the last ten years. Detailed assessment reports about recent natural disasters by the governments of the two countries and international organizations have yet to be published. The newspaper articles contain original reporting and it is vital to peruse them because of the paucity of available published data. Government documents about various policies and their implementation and reports from other organizations focusing on migration due to environmental factors are also studied.

Migration pattern

Rise in the natural calamities in the region has led to forced climate migration. Migration to a safe place is not easy as the migrants are unfamiliar with the new region and have to start afresh. Governments and non-governmental organizations have to address this issue as it is likely to become a serious problem in the future. According to a study in Bangladesh, there are two migration patterns due to environmental factors. The first pattern is immediately after a natural calamity hits the region, and there is a lot of destruction caused to the region (Anwer, 2012). The second pattern is when environmental factors affect the people’s income sources in the affected region, resulting in people migrating to another region (Anwer, 2012).

The duration of migration also depends on the impact that the natural calamities have caused in the region. Migration can be temporary, permanent, internal, or international. Migration occurring after the submergence of an island due to rise in sea level will be permanent. Migration for better job opportunities can be temporary as people migrate when they need money. Climate migration mainly takes place within the country where the migrants typically prefer to migrate to the nearest state capital city or another urbanized area. Still, in some exceptional cases, they may migrate to neighbouring countries. Push factors of migration include environmental influences primarily impacting the place of origin, affecting the population forcing them to migrate. Pull factors are related to attractiveness of destinations mostly because of better job opportunities (Anwer, 2012).

Migration is not a new phenomenon for people living in Sundarbans region. Since the population of the region is dependent on natural resources for their income any impact on it will affect their livelihood. Migration has always been an important livelihood strategy (Mistri, 2019). At least one member from a family – mainly male – would migrate to other regions for work. Many people migrated from Indian Sundarbans to Kerala, Mumbai, Gujarat and Orissa. A few even migrated abroad, for example, to the Gulf countries (Saha & Goswami, 2020). Earlier, the primary motivation for migration was better job opportunities (pull factors). Migrants would work as casual labourers – pipeline fitters at Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), construction workers etc. (Saha & Goswami, 2020). Such migration was seasonal. Since cyclone Aila hit the region in 2009, there has been an increase in migration to states like Kerala. Climate change has made the region witness increasing migration due to push factors. On the Bangladeshi side, shrinkage of land, river bank erosion and increased water salinity affects the population and magnifies income disparities as people become landless and unemployed (Bose, 2014). Over the last decade many people in Bangladeshi Sundarbans have lost their homes and migrated to the capital city of Dhaka which is facing a problem of overcrowding (Tower, 2020). There is also the threat of illegal migration from Bangladesh to India (Bose, 2014). 

As previously mentioned, forced migration can happen immediately after natural calamities. Still, in many cases, it happens when environmental changes start impacting people’s livelihood and gradually make the region an unsafe place to live in. There is a connection between environmental and socio-economic factors. The next section highlights how climate change has impacted the livelihood of people in the region.

Climate Change Impact on Livelihood leading to Migration

The environment has a significant impact on an individual’s decision-making regarding migration, including its duration. Researchers at Jadavpur University’s Centre for Oceanographic Studies have argued that the rise in sea level in India’s eastern coast is happening at a fast rate of 3.14 mm per year (Government of West Bengal, 2009).

A rise in sea level is one of the biggest threats that the Sundarbans region is facing. It is leading to land erosion and submergence of the islands. According to a study conducted on involuntary migration in Sundarbans, sea level rise was mentioned as an important factor. Two islands – Lohachara and Bedford – have already been submerged on the Indian side (Bera, 2013). While the island of Ghoramara, on the Indian side, is at a high risk of land erosion, five villages of the island have already submerged (Ghosh, Hajra & Mukhopadhyay, 2014). A study done to analyse the loss of the island Ghoramara found that in the year 2012 there was a massive decrease in the area of up to 4.43 sq. km. (Ghosh, Hajra, & Mukhopadhyay, 2014, p. 221). In the previous year, various island villages submerged resulting in migration to safer villages and an increase in the population in the latter areas. The impact on the ecosystem affects income which leaves no choice for the people but to migrate to different islands. Substantial intra-island migration has already happened, and the islands that people are migrating to are at a high risk of getting submerged, further increasing the rate of migration to other higher areas.

The rise in water levels is forcing people to leave their houses and migrate to a safe space. The sea level rise also increases saline water threat during the monsoon season and particularly during high tides or cyclones. River embankments are affected, which has resulted in a decrease in the flow of freshwater rivers. Embankments are built to avoid water overflows, but they take up a substantial amount of agricultural land. When embankments are destroyed, substantial time is spent to repair them, making the region more vulnerable and affecting sources of livelihood. The land’s economic value also decreases, making it hard for the landowners to sell or even mortgage their land. Land erosion causes owners to lose land or leads to a reduction in the value of land, and the landless are forced to move to a safer region (Bera, 2013). The impact on agricultural land has a significant effect on people’s job opportunities and has resulted in people migrating for earning income. Land erosion also impacts fisheries as saline water is not ideal for freshwater fishery. People have to take risky steps to continue freshwater fishery close to the embankments. It has also affected the region’s physical assets, and people have to build houses near rivers or roads.

Like the rise in sea level and land erosion, cyclones have also had a significant impact on the decision of migration. In the last two decades, the region has faced three significant cyclones, all of which were severe. Sidr and Aila had a significant impact on the region; after Aila, the region faced various problems for two years. The region was submerged, land turned unproductive, and soil’s salinity increased. This had a significant impact on the income of the region as sources of income were affected. What made the Aila cyclone even more impactful was that the region was still recovering from cyclone Sidr when it hit. When a cyclone hits a region, it leads to multiple calamities, and people have to survive floods, waterlogging, and saline intrusion.  All this resulted in a significant effect on the livelihood of the population of the region. During the cyclone Aila, embankments were broken, which increased the salinity of water, making agricultural land unproductive. Farmers tried rice plantations, but due to saline waterlogging, the land became uncultivable. Farmers were left with no choice but to borrow money, which increased people’s financial burden (Rizwana & Mokbul, 2019).

Many people changed their occupation. Fish farmers were ready for harvesting before the cyclone, but after the cyclone hit, they had to suffer significant losses. Increased waterlogging and water salinity also affected the people dependent on fishing (Rizwana & Mokbul, 2019). Almost two years were taken to repair the broken embankment, which resulted in more salinity increase. The adverse impact of the cyclone on the livelihood of the population left them with no choice but to migrate to another place for a steady source of income (Rizwana, Mokbul, 2019).  Social conditions were also affected by the cyclone, houses were destroyed, and many relocated to a safer place as embankments were broken. A large portion of the population lives in semi-pucca houses, which makes them more vulnerable to natural calamities. Freshwater for consumption was also affected. Two primary sources of water are tube wells and ponds. They became unsuitable for consumption or any domestic purpose like cooking, bathing, washing (Rizwana & Mokbul, 2019) and people had to travel long distances to fetch water (Rizwana & Mokbul, 2019). People had to also suffer due to poor sanitation after the cyclone hit the region.

Salinisation has been a significant issue for the region; according to the research about forced climate migration, there has been an increase in the soil salinity in the Sunderbans region by up to 8.0 parts per thousand which is higher than what is suitable for rice cultivation (Mistri, 2019). After the cyclone hit, the region faced crop failure due to high salinization. As a large number of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, which is mainly affected by natural calamities, and this becomes a significant cause for migration.

Adverse environmental factors, caused by climate change, should also be given importance because it acts as a push factor in addition to socioeconomic factors for migration (Mistri, 2019). Table 1 (Kishwan, 2017, p.28) focuses on the decline of agriculture in the Sundarban region due to various factors. Agriculture is one of the essential income sources of the region and is also affected due to natural calamities. Cyclones result in increased salinity of the agricultural fields, and as a result, agricultural production is greatly affected. This change in saline level in soil results in degrading soil quality, which is directly connected to change in weather conditions. In the process, freshwater resources are also affected as these get mixed up with saltwater. Overall, this has a negative influence on agricultural output.

Table 1

Reasons for Decline Crops Among Household Declaring a Decline

Reason for the declineBangladeshWest Bengal (India)
Saline water staying in fields33.8543.51
Poor soil quality24.3823.39
Changing weather condition19.491.12
Not enough fresh water available7.9422.69
Pest attack infestation5.874.88
Other reasons5.551.41
Fertilizer too expensive1.170.89
Not enough fertilizers available0.710.67
Not enough seeds available0.680.45
Seeds too expensive0.360.02
Crops stolen from fields 0.98

 Note. From Vision for the Sundarban Region, by Jagdish Kishwan, 2017, Table 6, p. 28, Public Domain.

In the last decade, environmental conditions of the region have worsened. For example, the Amphan cyclone has shown the region’s vulnerability to such environmental factors. In the next section, I will focus on the environmental impact on the population in the last decade.

Livelihood Impact

Mongabay, a science news platform, has featured articles on the problems of this region and the migration they cause. As mentioned previously, the Ghoramara island has shrunk to 6.7 square kilometers in the last few years (Sen, 2019). This has prompted people to leave the island, and the population has decreased drastically. The government has declared the island as no man’s land, and this region has little economic activity. Further, the region has seen little investments, and the rehabilitation plan is also not well planned.

An increase in salinity has affected the lucrative betel leaf cultivation and fisheries (Bhattacharya, 2018). Hence, some people from Ghoramara island are migrating to places like Kerala, Tamil Nadu for work. In a particular case, a few people had to move five times because of rising sea levels. Some people are searching for a place outside the island to build a new home. Some people now have to depend on risky jobs like honey gathering and have to go into forests where tigers attack them.

The sea-level in Sundarbans is increasing rapidly significantly impacting income sources. With a rise in the population and fewer work opportunities, people are forced to find jobs in other regions (Ghosh, 2018). Even though there are embankments built to protect the region, strong currents and tidal surges weaken them. Locals move outside the region to work in factories and return home during the tourist season to assist tour guides. Earlier, in many cases, only male members of the family migrated to other cities searching for jobs. Now with the region’s deteriorating condition, many women have also started to migrate (Ghosh, 2018). Some of them move with their family members, but the practice of women migrating to other regions on their own is not accepted due to gender bias.

Like Ghoramara island, Mousuni island also faces similar problems, which is far from the mangrove island. This island, especially its southern end, is at high risk of submersion. The island has already reduced to three-quarters of the original size, which has forced many people to move (Stone & Hornak, 2019). It is also experiencing other environmental factors like storms, coastal erosion, and floods. The rise in saltwater has impacted farms the supply of freshwater. According to the local government, at least half of the male population has left the island and moved to other cities (Stone & Hornak, 2019).  Rivers are also widening, taking over the land around them and causing people living near the river banks to migrate to other parts of the island.

The region was hit by cyclones Fani and Bulbul in the year 2019; houses were destroyed, and saltwater remained and percolated into the soil. Bulbul was a category 2 cyclone, which affected 3.5 million people (Muller, 2020). The recent Amphan cyclone, which hit in May 2020, also significantly impacted the region. The region had just returned to normalcy after the cyclone Aila in 2009. The cyclone destroyed the fence built to prevent tigers from entering the region of human settlement. Embankments have also been broken, resulting in an increase in saltwater saturation on the land. Vegetable crops have been destroyed, and the pond water is now contaminated, killing the fish in them. There is no cellphone connectivity service available in the region, which has made it difficult to establish contact and learn about the damage that the cyclone has caused. It is estimated that around 28 percent of mangrove forests have been damaged (Sengupta, n.d). During the time when the cyclone hit, migrants were at home because of the lockdown measures imposed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The condition is worse for them as they cannot return to the cities for work, and the cyclone has affected the island, which leaves them in a very challenging situation as far as livelihoods are concerned (Sengupta, n.d). For example, Pronab Biswas has to look after six family members who will migrate to Maharashtra in search of livelihood once the COVID-19 pandemic is over (Press Trust of India, 2020). The pandemic and the recent cyclone have added more problems for the people in the region.

The severe damage caused to the infrastructure of the region will significantly impact people’s livelihood. According to Dr. Sugata Hazra of the School of Oceanographic Sciences at Jadavpur University, in the future, there would be a mass migration from the Sundarbans region, and the government should take necessary actions to deal with the such developments (Ghosh, 2018). There was very little media coverage about the Sundarbans region and the impact of the cyclone. Al Jazeera English’s (2020) video report focuses on the region’s condition five days after the cyclone hit the region. Anil Hawalder lost his harvest; his paddy and potato fields are filled with saltwater. The soil after the cyclone got so contaminated that, according to him, it will take years of monsoon to wash away the salt (Al Jazeera English, 2020, 0.28- 0.51). The current circumstance has highlighted the urgency of the situation. The government has to take steps to make sure that the people of this region are safe.

Governance of the Ecosystem: Policies, Programs, and Challenges

In this region, government policy for people’s welfare has taken a back seat. A lot of importance is given to protecting the wildlife and the forest region, which are also important, but as a result, the human population is neglected. The Sundarban region acts as a barrier which protects a populated city like Kolkata from various climate disasters like cyclone, erosion and flooding. Government policies undertaken for protecting the Sundarban ecosystem are important to save the region from future climatic shocks and their adverse impacts. However, climate change has already resulted in an increase in sea level and erosion of the island, which significantly affects the island population. It is expected that there will be an increase in the impact, which will lead to a larger number of forced climate migrants. Government policies leading to restore the ecosystem will help improve future prospects for the population living in the region. The government should also have policies for helping the currently affected population who have to migrate due to natural disasters. As stated earlier, environmental migration still has no locus standi in international treaty law; hence there are no provisions for these migrants (Sengupta, n.d). Policies adopted by India mainly focus on disaster relief, which do not mention any displacement or migration due to environmental conditions (Sengupta, n.d).

Governments of both countries have started to take measures and adopt policies that will help the population to combat the impact of climate change which affects the income and safety of the population. However, the population is still not receiving adequate help and has to migrate to other cities. India and Bangladesh have taken initiatives like signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2011 on the “Conservation of the Sundarbans” (Ministry of External Affairs, 2011). This was later looked after by the Environment, Forest, and Climate Change ministries of the respective countries. Various issues were addressed in the MoU; some of the issues were undertaking joint monitoring of resources, management of resources, conservation and protection of species and habitat, restoration of the mangroves forest to promote for ecotourism, measures to save tigers, sharing knowledge about biodiversity conservation and having a mechanism for a joint research and management program (Ministry of External Affairs, 2011). Article III of the MoU focuses on the management plan to improve humans’ livelihood, disaster management, reducing man-animal conflict, and pollution control (Danda, 2019). Even though specific management plans have been formulated, they are not implemented well. Some of them have not considered the ongoing impact of climate change (Danda, 2019). Lastly, the current disaster management plans do not involve a plan for recovery (Danda, 2019).

In 2016, the Observer Research Foundation, on behalf of the Bangladesh-India Sundarbans Region Initiatives, discussed the climate adaptation and mitigation issues related to Sundarbans (Bhattacharjee, 2016). Ministers of Environment from both countries took part in the discussion, which focused on joint management of the region. The 2011 MOU is not the only MOU that both countries have signed in the past; there have been various instances since 1972 where they have come together to discuss Sundarbans (Verma et al., 2018). In the 2016 meeting, problems like climate change, overexploitation, land use, cyclonic impact, governance issues, tourism, and ways to overcome these issues were discussed (Institution for Defence Studies and Analyses & Observer Research Foundation, 2017). They formulated the vision document that discusses the strategy the governments would follow to resolve these problems (Institution for Defence Studies and Analyses & Observer Research Foundation, 2017). India, in its Vision 2050, has included references to human migration and how they will take steps to financially support migrants so they can use the infrastructure in the new region to increase social, political, and financial conditions (Institution for Defence Studies and Analyses & Observer Research Foundation, 2017). Nonetheless, the overall lack of focus on migration is concerning. While it is important to focus on environmental concerns, it is essential that migration is also given priority.

After the cyclone in 2009, help from the Indian government was very slow-paced, and even the relief and rebuilding work took a substantial amount of time (Afroz, 2020). The government takes a lot of time rebuilding the embankment that stops the saline water from entering the region, and as the reconstruction is slow, it continues to make the land unproductive. Even though the government has promised to make a separate ministry for fisheries, this has not been implemented. False promises by different political parties have made the local population less interested in the political process.

Various departments like the Sundarban Development Board (SDB) only look good on paper, but do not provide substantial help to the community (Das, 2019). Indian locals complained about the nonfulfillment of government’s promise to provide them costly fish feed, which will help the freshwater pisciculture so that fishers will not have to go to forests for livelihood. There are complaints about the distribution system where the local leader gives support and aid only to their preferred people (Das, 2019). People seem to have lost interest in the government. Governments at the central and state level have not undertaken substantial measures improve the region’s condition (Das, 2019). People still have to migrate or enter the forest for income. Various policies like the National Action Plan on Climate Change, and the West Bengal State Action Plan on climate change which focuses explicitly on the Sundarbans’ vulnerability, have been adopted (Ghosh, 2018), and a budget was recommended for the period from 2012 to 2022, but no information has been released on the progress of activities (Ghosh, 2018). The rate of migration is increasing and the government needs to take action to help people.

Embankments that are built by the government are either too old to protect the region or too weak, and consequently break when natural calamities strike. Since the colonial rule, laws regarding embankments have not changed; this is concerning since conditions have substantially changed. (Ohdedar, 2020). The law states that it is the responsibility of the government to build and maintain the embankments (Ohdedar, 2020). People’s needs are not always taken into consideration. Inadequate infrastructure and misuse of resources are a couple of reasons why embankments were destroyed after cyclone Aila (Ohdedar, 2020). Three villages that took initiative to be involved in participatory management got remarkable results when cyclone Amphan struck (“Participatory Management Key to Repair Embankments in Amphan- Hit Sundarbans,” 2020).

According to the Institution for Defence Studies and Analyses and Observer Research Foundation report, both countries have implemented well-functioning early warning systems. This helps in lowering the impact on lives and assets that is caused by cyclones and storms. After the cyclone Amphan cystruck, the government was able to save people and provide them with aid and shelter. There has been the construction of multipurpose cyclone shelters and coastal embankment systems. The Bangladesh early warning system is governed by Standing Orders on Disasters, which specifies roles and responsibilities so that actions cqn be taken before and after the disaster (Institution for Defence Studies and Analyses and Observer Research Foundation [IDSA and ORF], 2017). Compared to the Bangladesh Disaster Management framework, India’s system is more centralized, and there is less integration of communities (IDSA and ORF, 2017). Various information channels are used to warn people about cyclones like television, radio, mobile phones, door-to-door awareness, and newspapers. The government also built 225 multi-purpose shelters, flood shelters, and relief godowns (IDSA and ORF, 2017). They have also proposed adaptation actions like research studies on topics like cyclones’ impact, tolerance of mangroves, constructing embankments, raising heights of houses, building sustainable livelihoods, and improving health care. Proposals to improve agricultural productivity are also mentioned, such as increasing embankment heights, introducing salt-tolerant rice, storage, marketing facilities, providing insurance for cereals and plantation crops, and promoting livelihood alternatives.

According to climate change researchers, migration is inevitable, so even if there is a decrease in natural calamities and intensity, people will continue to migrate due to threats like rise in sea-level (Ghosh, 2019). The inevitable threat of migration highlights the slow impact that the environment has on the population, affecting their income, resources, and safety. Therefore, the government should develop different solutions to tackle these problems, which will help them adapt to this changing environmental condition. Researchers suggest that solutions like high-value crops and living on raised lands should be adopted, and the community should be helped in re-building houses which are flood-tolerant (Ghosh, 2019). Communities’ needs should be heard and given importance. Solutions have been discussed and proposed. Hurdles still exist in implementation, including budgetary constraints (Ghosh, 2019). The government should also address that migration is increasing and make the migration process a little easier for the population. It is suggested that they can do this by keeping records of the people and their skills. In their reports, the governments have mentioned giving financial aid that will benefit the migrant but more resources are necessary to fulfil these objectives. Even though Bangladesh has taken a lot of measures for disaster management, they still lack in the recovery process, which results in repeated losses (Khan, 2020). The recovery process should be given enough importance; otherwise, it may result in long periods of uncertainty and increasing forced climate migration.


Both Indian and Bangladeshi governments have taken steps to protect the people of the region, but few of these measures have been successful. Since the region has the same ecosystem and faces the same environmental factors and migration problems, both countries have to come together and work on the region’s ecosystem. More emphasis should be given to the problem of migration. There have been cases where there is migration from the Bangladeshi side of Sundarban to Indian side, which is a diplomatic and political problem. This problem will be even more significant as climate change impacts intensify in the region; hence a joint initiative to protect Sundarbans will be good for both countries. Both countries should address the re-settlement problem as it would help reduce their financial burdens in the future. Disaster management agencies in both countries should create awareness regarding possible natural calamities in the future and strive towards rapid recovery and resettlement. The demands of the community should also be given attention since they are a better judge of what they want and it can help improve their condition. The region will face the consequences of climate change regularly with increasing intensity. Preparation will help better deal with problems and reduce forced human climate migration


In 2002, Dr. Hazra had estimated that that climate change might displace over 69,000 people from the Sundarbans by 2020. In 2018, about 60,000 people have already migrated from the region (Dasgupta, 2018). The vulnerability of the region is increasing with each passing year. A large portion of the region’s population constitutes lower-income families, and hence they are especially affected by changes in environmental conditions. Sundarbans has been facing many environmental disasters, the intensity of which has been rising with each passing year. This paper observed that various interconnected environmental factors like rising sea levels, floods, soil salinity and cyclones have impacted human migration in the region, and it is not possible to identify one factor as the main problem impacting safety of the population. Even if people survive these calamities, the slow effects of the environmental factors such as an increase in soil salinity and sea level affects people’s livelihood, and hence they are forced to migrate to different regions. The region’s primary occupations, agriculture and fishing, are hampered due to increased water salinity. Hence, people have to search for a new livelihood option and might end up taking a risk-prone job. Earlier, migration was for better job opportunities, but lately, people are migrating simply to secure safer living conditions. Migrants have to go to different locations, start from scratch, work as construction laborers, rickshaw drivers, or on someone’s farm and live in poor conditions.

The rise in sea-level has already submerged two islands, and on a third island, five villages have submerged. The intensity and frequency of cyclones’ has also increased. Cyclones like Sidr, Aila and Amphan are prime examples of this.  Just as the region started to recover from the past cyclone, it was hit by a new one which caused significant impact. Hence, the government should implement the goals they have decided in the vision report to address the region’s issues. Both India and Bangladesh will face large forced climate migration migrations in the future unless there is timely government action.


I would like to thank Dr. Lopamudra Maitra Bajpai for her guidance and suggestion for this paper. I would also like to thank my mentor Priyadarshini Karve for her comments and advice on my paper.


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