Human history is a history of migration which involves movement of people from one place to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. The migration is a looming problem in Asia, as the region remains vulnerable to climate change because of its high degree of exposure to environmental risks, high population density (particularly along the coasts) and the high vulnerability of poor people. In the past few years alone, extreme weather in Malaysia, Pakistan, China, India, Philippines and Sri Lanka has caused enormous loss and dislocation of millions. The pressure will only increase as population grows in these countries. The environmental hot spots in Asia include the Western region of China, India’s Bay of Bengal region, as well as Karachi’s coast area. All the three regions will remain at particular risk of flooding and cyclones. Overall, each country in Asia faces its own hotspots, as climate change is predicted to increase extreme weather events across the region. More importantly, Asia’s poor and least capable of coping with severe weather will be left with no option but to move with few assets to an uncertain future. Those who stay back in the affected places will remain at the mercy of nature's whims.
Latest trends also indicate that international migration is likely to increase in scale and complexity due to growing demographic disparities, new global and political dynamics, technological revolutions and social networks. All different factors associated with mass migration will have a profound impact on the socio-economic composition of societies. The Asia-Pacific region, home to almost 60 percent of the world’s people, hosts over 31.5 million international migrants according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). The region comprises major countries of origin, as well as traditional and emerging destination countries for migrants. While countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka are the main countries of origin, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand are regional key destinations. Countries like India and China are simultaneously countries of origin, transit and destination. There are different reasons behind migration in the region, including labour mobility. Climate change, however, remains one of the main reasons. Every year, a large number of people get displaced in Asia due to different environmental reasons like floods, droughts, soil degradation and cyclones. The graph shows migration in the year 2012 the number of migrants from different regions of Asia. The figures are likely to grow over time as Asian coastal cities remain prone to recurrent flooding.
While the interaction between environmental change and migration is little understood, its implications for migration—both within countries and across international borders—could be enormous. Just as an example, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 resulted in between one to two million people being displaced from their homes. Since 2010, there have been floods in Pakistan and China, storms in Bangladesh, China and the Philippines and natural disasters in the Indian Himalayas which have led to the displacement of millions, many of them internally. Bangladesh and Indonesia already rank as the top two of natural disaster countries, being at “extreme risk” according to the Natural Risk Index 2010. Coastal flooding poses another climate change-induced risk, with around a third of the Southeast Asian population living in areas considered to be at risk of coastal flooding. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecast for year 2050, eight of the top 10 countries in the world that could become home to the greatest number of people living on low-elevation coastal zones will be in Asia and the Pacific. As per ADB estimate, India, Bangladesh and China could be most affected from floods and subsequent displacement.