Joint report: ‘Climate refugees in South Asia need protection’

Advocates call for Saarc nations to adopt a treaty and policies to help protect them


Reuters December 09, 2016

NEW YORK: People forced to leave their homes because of climate change in South Asia should get the same protections given to political refugees, advocates said on Thursday.

Governments in South Asia have failed to address the climate migration of millions of people, uprooted by cyclones, flash floods and other disasters, said a report by the non-profit groups Climate Action Network - South Asia, Bread for the World and ActionAid.

The region’s eight nations - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – should adopt a treaty and policies to help protect climate refugees, said Harjeet Singh, a spokesman in India for the South African-based ActionAid. The eight nations also comprise the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

“We share a common ecosystem, and we share common mountains, rivers, history and culture,” Singh said. “When these solutions need to be devised, we have to have common solutions.”

Saarc should have policies under which people crossing borders due to environmental crises are recognized as refugees, he told Reuters.

South Asia, the world’s most disaster-prone region according to the United Nations, has suffered widespread droughts, heat waves and cyclones leading to crop failures in recent years, the report said.

More than 46 million people in South Asia fled their homes due to natural disasters between 2008 and 2013, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has estimated.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2016.

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