Monthly Archives: February 2011

‘No mass migration due to climate change’

By An IIED Spokesperson

In Leh changing climate could affect safety and livelihoods. Photo by special arrangement

Research published on Friday (February 4) by the International Institute for Environment and Development refutes alarmist predictions about hundreds of millions of people being forced to migrate across international borders because of climate change.

The research, which includes case studies from Bolivia, Senegal and Tanzania, found no evidence that environmental degradation linked to climate change would result in large flows of international migrants. Instead, social and economic factors play a bigger role in who moves, where they move and for how long — and most movements are of short durations and short distances.

“People affected by environmental degradation rarely moved across borders,” says the study’s author Dr Cecilia Tacoli. “Instead they moved to other rural areas or to local towns, often temporarily.”

“Such migrants can reduce their vulnerability by diversifying their sources of income and reducing their dependence on natural resources, but governments often view migrants as a problem and either provide little support or actively discourage them from moving.”

The study urges governments to understand the social and economic factors that shape migration so they can develop policies that support the strategies poor people use to adapt to environmental degradation.

“Policymakers need to redefine migration and see it as a valuable adaptive response to environmental risks and not as problem that needs to be tackled,” says Tacoli. “We need rational, realistic responses to climate-change, not knee-jerk reactions that create new problems and increase vulnerability,” says Tacoli.

For governments in climate-vulnerable countries, this means policies that:

* protect livelihoods in migrants’ home areas, with specific attention to ensuring access to land;

* support migrants at destination, making sure that they have adequate representation and that their rights are respected; and

* avoid vicious cycles, whereby migration is the consequence not of climate change itself, but of policies created to address climate change.

The study notes that when people do move internationally they often invest in their home countries in ways that can further have an impact on internal movement.

This is because such investments tend to be made in areas with potential for economic growth and, in many cases, in non-agricultural activities, such as construction and businesses in urban centres, especially in small and intermediate ones where land is cheaper.

Also, when international migrants send money home this can be used to pay temporary labourers to work on family farms.

Both these sectors are major employers of temporary migrants from environmentally fragile areas and can reduce people’s vulnerability to climate change.

“Both the relatively common internal migration and the relatively rare international migration can support poor people who are at risk from climate change,” says Tacoli. “Migration is part of the solution, not part of the problem as many people think.”


This paper and the research on which it draws were prepared with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Additional funding was provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (Danida). Technical support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) is also gratefully acknowledged. The opinions expressed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies. On 1 January 2011, GIZ was formed. It brings together the long-standing expertise of DED, GTZ and Inwent. For further information, go to

A battered sea wall and an angry Arabian Sea

By J M John

The future of fishing along Kerala coast is bleak as a case study of Poonthura village in Thiruvananthapuram shows


Poonthura coast, battered by the Arabian Sea during 2010 rainy season. (Photo: Harris K/ Monsoon)

This report brings to light in detail various aspects of the study village, Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram District in Kerala state in  five sections. The first section describes geographic, demographic, socio-economic, political and cultural situations in Poonthura village, while the second section deals with marine fishing as the major livelihood option for the vast majority of people in the village. This section also makes a comparison of the situation between the past and the present while observing the life and work of the fishermen during the past five decades. Section three discusses about the coping strategies of the people. The fourth section explains the impact of global warming and climate change as seen by the documentation team. The last section, the fifth, lists out and discusses the inferences, conclusions and recommendations for future.

According to our findings, the future of fishing communities along the coastal belt of Kerala is bleak and grim. This is all the more true with Poonthura with its geographical, social, political and ecclesiastical peculiarities. Fishing is no more a viable economic activity and the community does not have many alternative employment opportunities. Lack of land and related issues of housing and sanitation are going to create an unprecedented situation of unhygienic living. Health and hygiene are at risk and there is no immediate solution planned to solve these problems. No effective mobilisation is taking place by any of the agencies including that of the Government. The strength of numbers is not made use for furthering progress and solving the problems of the people. They are still considered as vote banks by different political parties.

In this context we suggest that:

a)       A people’s movement around the theme of global warming, climate change and livelihood challenges needs to be slowly built up and people should take up related issues in the fisheries sector. This movement has a scope to spread to other parts of the state’s coastline and beyond.

b)       Iintensive awareness building campaign, plan adaptation and mitigation strategies and implement them; train and encourage people to put in practice coping methods, link with government for accessing all possible resources  required to protect the community for a better and sustainable life

c)       Any project or and program will need to be implemented with the active participation of the people. Serious preparation and training are required to get people involved in the process. A stake-holders forum of experts, researchers, scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, activists, politicians, church, NGOs, SHGs, youth clubs, etc. need to be involved

d)       A series of climate change education may be initiated as part of the programme.

(Full report)


(J M John, PhD works with ADHWANA, an NGO based in Thiruvananthapuram)