04.03.2014 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

National Workshop on Migration and Global Environmental Change in India

Within the framework of UNESCO`s activities under the Internal Migration in India Initiative (IMII), UNESCO, along with UK Government Office for Science (GOS) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), is holding a two-day workshop on Migration and Global Environmental Change in India on 4-5 March 2014 in New Delhi at India Habitat Centre.   The workshop aims to document existing research on anticipated impacts of global environmental change on population mobility in India and advance knowledge on the need to incorporate migration influenced by global environmental change, both internal and international, into planning.

Today, at the inauguration the keynote address at the inaugural session was given by the Chief Guest, Dr. Prodipto Ghosh, Member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change and Member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Union Cabinet. Mr Shigeru Aoyagi, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Prof. Sandy Thomas, Head of Foresight, Government Office for Science, UK and Prof. Richard Black, Pro-Director (Research & Enterprise), SOAS, University of London, UK presided over the Inaugural Session.  Shri Arun Maira, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India will chair the closing session “Towards a Policy Roadmap for the Migration and Global Environmental Change Nexus in India”.   

The international study titled “Migration and Global Environmental Change”, published by Foresight in 2011, reveals that the major challenges associated with migration and environmental changes have been underestimated. By focusing solely on the population that might leave vulnerable areas, we risk neglecting those that will be ‘trapped’ and those that will actually move towards danger. Development policies will be better able to deliver if they take account of the links between global environmental change and migration, as well as recognize that migration can be part of the solution. The workshop will explore how the findings of the GOS Foresight report and other analysis, could inform the thinking of key stakeholders in policy, academia and civil society with a specific interest in this topic. Head of Foresight, Professor Sandy Thomas says "Migration in the context of climate change is an ever-growing challenge which poses major questions for society at all levels. The UK Government Office for Science is very pleased to work with UNESCO, DFID and leading organisations to deliver this workshop which provides a unique and valuable opportunity to explore how the Foresight report on Migration and Global Environmental Change might support decision-making in the development of sustainable policy and research in India."

The expected outcomes of this project are to increase awareness, engagement and advocacy on the topic of migration and global environmental change, based on evidence. Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka stresses that “it is mainly the government responsibility to anticipate and plan for migration induced by global environmental change while at the same time addressing the needs of the current internal migrant population”

Indian economy is inextricably tied to climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, which are already facing multiple stresses, and global environmental change could further exacerbate these stresses.  Migration and especially internal migration, is already a challenging question and the current discourse does not adequately address pertinent issues such as seasonal and circular migration, portability of rights and social entitlements, lack of formal residency rights, lack of identity proof, lack of political representation, low-paid, insecure or hazardous work and extreme vulnerability of women and children to trafficking and sex exploitation. Global environmental change could aggravate the situation. 

India has a long, densely populated low lying coastline, an under-developed and fragile Himalayas, a vast arid region. Water stress and access to non-polluted fresh water is already a significant problem in large parts of India, which negatively impacts on agricultural production. Areas of North West India dependent on intensive agriculture are expected to be significantly affected and changing precipitation regimes will impact food security. Rising sea level will affect coastal regions where several megacities, such as Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, are located. Flooding along the major rivers along with storm surge impacts and greater salt water intrusion is likely to affect a large number of people due to high population density and poor urban planning. Further, the Himalayan region that has 51 million people practicing hill agriculture whose vulnerability will increase as a result of melting glaciers coupled with an intensification of the monsoon. The 4th IPCC Assessment Report predicts a median temperature increase of 3.3 degree C, a general weakening of the monsoon system, a decrease in the number of rainy days and an increase in the intensity of extreme rain events for India. The findings have implications for a broad range of policy areas in India, well beyond the migration and environmental spheres. These include sustainable development, urban planning, climate change adaptation, eradication of poverty, human rights, social protection (welfare schemes), employment, public health and humanitarian assistance.

Millions will be ‘trapped’ in vulnerable areas and unable to move, particularly in under-developed regions. People will increasingly migrate towards environmentally vulnerable areas. Rural to urban migration is set to continue, but many cities are already grappling with infrastructure challenges, with flooding, water shortages and inadequate housing. Cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are high risk areas in the context of global environmental change. People will increasingly be living in urban coastal floodplains in these cities by 2060, through both natural population growth and rural-urban migration.

For more information:

Marina Faetanini, Chief, Social and Human Sciences (m.faetanini(at)unesco.org)

Rekha Beri, Public Information (r.beri(at)unesco.org)

Sankalpa Acharya, Social and Human Sciences (s.acharya(at)unesco.org ) 

Website:  http://www.unesco.org/new/en/newdelhi

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