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Monsoon stretching longer, displacing more people in south Asia: Report

Disasters displaced some 61.4 million people in south Asia in 2010-2021, according to IDMC and ADB report

The southwest monsoon staying longer than its season and overlapping with the northeast monsoon is leading to more severe spells of rainfall events, floods and storms in south Asia, particularly India. As a result, more and more people are being displaced, according to the latest report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).   

The report studied forced movements within a country boundary and displacement due to natural disasters during 2010-2021.

In south Asia, disasters displaced some 61.4 million people in 2010-2021. Of this, 58.6 million were displaced due to weather-related disasters.

Floods and storms were responsible for over 90 per cent of the total displacements. Of the total weather-related disasters-displaced population, floods accounted for 37.4 million and storms 21 million.

Floods and storms usually strike the region during the southwest and northeast monsoon seasons. “In recent years, the region has experienced shifts in flood duration, and the El Niño Southern Oscillation variation has also played a role in their frequency and intensity,” the report said.

As has been widely observed, the southwast monsoon, though entering peninsular India on time, is extending beyond its seasonal boundary of September.

The IDMC-ADB report has cited the instance of Monsoon 2021 that lasted till October, overlapping with the northeast monsoon.

“This rare phenomenon brought unusually heavy rains and floods to several southern Indian states and triggered 312,000 displacements in Tamil Nadu in November, 2021,” the report said.

“As climate change contributes to more prolonged and erratic monsoon seasons, the impact of seasonal flooding in south Asia may continue to have devastating consequences,” the report said.

It added: “Storms — including major tropical cyclones — triggered about 21 million internal displacements during 2010-2021.”

Across the Asia-Pacific region, which the IDMC-ADB study covered, disasters displaced some 225 million people during 2010-2021. Or, nearly 19 million people are displaced due to disaster every year.

This was more than 75 per cent of the total world figure. Monsoon rains, floods and storms were responsible for 95 per cent of all disaster displacements across the region.

But adding to the climate change-induced disasters’ impact is the rapid urbanisation and lack of planning to avert them. People have less capacity to adapt or absorb such shocks due to low social and economic growth.

But rapid urbanisation has resulted in more and more people being made vulnerable to extreme floods, as we witnessed in Bengaluru and Pakistan recently.

“Socioeconomic vulnerability — coupled with population growth in areas prone to hazards — drives disaster displacement risk across the subregion, including in some of its megacities such as Mumbai and Dhaka,” said the report.

“Most displacements associated with floods are urban, as cities are often located in flood-prone river basins or coastal areas,” the report added.

“Asia and the Pacific is the world’s most rapidly urbanising region, and the expansion of cities in disaster-prone areas increases people’s exposure to displacement,”  IDMC’s Global Monitoring and Reporting Manager, Vicente Anzellini.

“As the intensity and frequency of disasters are expected to increase, people uprooted from home will have less time to recover, potentially trapping them in cycles of prolonged or repeated displacement,” he added.

“While displacement often demands a humanitarian response, it is first and foremost a development issue,” Noelle O’Brien, ADB’s Chief of Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Group.

“It disrupts and erodes the development gains of affected communities and can have an impact on their longer-term stability and resilience to future shocks,” O’Brien added.

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