Will climate change exacerbate India’s illegal immigrant problem?

Drought and incessant flooding in neighbouring countries can lead to large scale migration to India, said a report on climate change


Huge migration would further induce shift from rural to urban areas, putting more pressure on Indian cities already stretched in terms of resources, said the report written by energy analysts and experts from the UK, the US, China and India. Photo: AFP
Huge migration would further induce shift from rural to urban areas, putting more pressure on Indian cities already stretched in terms of resources, said the report written by energy analysts and experts from the UK, the US, China and India. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Climate change in south Asia could increase illegal immigration into India. Drought and incessant flooding caused by climate change in India’s neighbours such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh could lead to large scale migration to India.

Such huge migration combined with the shift from rural to urban areas, putting more pressure on Indian cities already stretched in terms of resources, said a report on climate change, written by energy analysts and experts from the UK, the US, China and India, and released worldwide on Monday.

“High degrees of climate change could increase the risks of state failure in countries that are economically underdeveloped, resource stressed, or already unstable for other reasons. In South Asia, drought in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and incessant flooding and loss of land to the sea in Bangladesh, could put those countries’ governments under great stress, and precipitate large-scale migration into India,” said vice admiral Pradeep Chauhan (retired) of the Indian Navy in the report.

“In India, this migration would combine with an internal population shift from rural to urban areas, further increasing demographic pressure in cities—many of the largest of which—including Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai are coastal, and will be increasingly vulnerable to flooding both from sea level rise and from more intense rainfall,” added Chauhan.

This may further exacerbate the country’s Maoist problem and the government may face overwhelming temptation to use the military to handle it, added the report that comes five months before a summit on climate change in Paris in December, where global leaders are expected to strike a new global climate deal.

Chauhan, who is a former commandant of the Indian Navy and assistant chief of Naval staff, said that both the influx of internal and external migrants, and the increasing variability of the monsoon, could further destabilize the “Red Corridor”.

Explaining this as a swathe of economic deprivation and misgovernance cutting through almost all the eastern states of India where Marxist-Leninist rebels are waging a campaign of violence against India, Chauhan said, “The temptation to solve this problem through military intervention could become overwhelming.”

The main authors of the report include the UK special representative for climate change David King, Harvard University’s Center for the Environment director Daniel P. Schrag, China’s National Expert Committee on Climate Change member Zhou Dadi, CEO of Indian thinktank Council on Energy, Environment and Water Arunabha Ghosh and senior fellow of US thinktank Brookings Institution, Qi Ye.

Apart from unprecedented migration, the report highlighted that climate change could increase the appeal of terrorism in failing states.

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