Migration and displacement due to sea-level rise: Mega-cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai could be hit hard

A one-meter sea level rise will inundate 6000 square kilometers in India, of which Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai will be the major cities being affected. This would mean losses of billions of dollars in infrastructural, social, physical assets and capital.

125 million people are likely to migrate in the coming century of which 75 million will be from Bangladesh. The people from Bangladesh will most likely migrate to India in addition to our own 50 to 60 million people who will be displaced due to sea-level rise, shrinking water sources due to CC in the densely populated coastal regions of India.

Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are the mega-cities on the coast of India, on an average elevation of 2-10 metres, which is in the Low Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ). LECZ are regions which fall under 10 metres of coastal elevation. Approximately 81,000 square kms of land fall under LECZ in India, housing a population of over 60 million. 50% of this population are in urban regions comprising approximately 31 million people.

The coastal regions will be vulnerable due to storm surges, and coastal erosion. Will the local institutions be capable of managing or contain the problems that will arise remains to be seen.

The fishing communities, which live on the coast are the least resilient and capable of facing the situation. They will lose their primary livelihood and will be forced to move to other livelihood options and will be forced to move inland in search of alternative livelihoods.

Erratic rainfall, climate changes, water shortages and food scarcity will push the vulnerable communities of landless labourers, small farmers, into worse conditions forcing them to migrate to the cities in search of subsitence. The adaptive capacities of these communities are extremely low considering that they are already affected by negative trends of globalization.

It is expected that the urban migrants as well as rural populations are more likely to migrate to other urban regions. It is estimated that the big cities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai are likely to face the most pressure from migration.

If the trends continue as they are, and no major policy changes are made and implemented, then the displacement will be around 50-60 million. But if the temperature rise is kept under 2 deg., then it is likely to be able to keep the displacement levels to under 5 million. It thus imperative to take very strong adaptive measures


Blue Alert report, Greenpeace. Click here - Blue Alert, Climate Migrants in South Asia, a new Greenpeace report warns that left unchecked climate change could lead to global temperature increases of between 4-5°C, unleashing a barrage of impacts that will drive mass migration in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.