Bangladesh has opened its borders to the Rohingya, stateless Muslim minorities, in danger from their home country Myanmar. The Rohingya have taken shelter in the Cox's Bazar area to escape a violent state of ethnic cleansing (OCHA, 2017). Summer monsoons in Bangladesh, with increased precipitation, have a devastating effect on this refugee community. Due to lack of vegetation, infrastructure, and sanitation in the Kutupalong-Balukhali camps, the storms will result in flooding and mudslides within the settlements (Miles, 2018).
The Cox's Bazar area was home to 13,901 refugees before the latest surge bringing the count up to 688,000 plus refugees (Reuters, 2017). The allocated camp sites have now been unofficially extended, turning the green, hilly areas that once were unoccupied into muddy fields crowded with tents and shelters (Reuters, 2017).
The Rohingya have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982 (OCHA, 2017). The violent state has been escalating in Myanmar and the Rohingya have been fleeing to Bangladesh to avoid human rights violations and religious persecutions. Since August 2017, 688,000 refugees have taken shelter in the Cox's Bazar area. The Bangladesh government has allocated 3,000 acres of land to build new camps (Miles, 2018). The refugees have arrived before infrastructure and safety plans were set in place resulting in makeshift settlements in limited space with very little provisions.
The warming of the Earth's atmosphere intensifies the monsoon weather in the Bangladesh (Kripalani, 2007). The intensification covers a larger area and increase the amount of precipitation brought by the monsoons (Liu, 2011). The additional forcing, influencing the strength of the monsoons, is due to the increase in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and water vapor over the South Asian region (IPCC, 2013). There is also a trough of low pressure making its way over the region leading to a moisture convergence. The strength and timing of the monsoons is also effected by the difference of sea-land temperature contrast. The land surface temperature is increasing at a higher rate than ocean temperature, therefore, causing a longer monsoon season (IPCC, 2013).
Exposure and Vulnerability
Bangladesh is located at the confluence of the Ganges, Meghna, and Brahmaputra. This location makes the area more vulnerable to the projected increase of rainfall from the summer monsoons. When rainfall occurs, the large volume exceeds the capacity of the rivers drainage channels causing massive flooding (Mirza, 2002). The simultaneous and long duration of flooding that each river experiences increases the magnitude of disaster for the settlement camps. The Cox's Bazar area lacks the necessary vegetation to buffer flooding and mudslides. The area is composed of soil that is a combination of silt, clay, and sand that has a tendency to move during rainfall (UNHCR, 2018). The settlement camps located in this area were hastily constructed with makeshift latrines and housing. The images below show the close proximity of the latrines and open defecation spots to the shelters of the Rohingya. The UNHCR guidelines specify that latrines should not be within six meters to the homes of refugees, however, the camps are very crowded and cannot follow the standards (Reuters, 2017). The flooding could result in the contamination of drinking water and an increase in diseases, such as cholera and diphtheria, due to the incredibly high chance fecal matter will pollute the resources (Miles, 2018).
Adaptation and Resilience
Many aid officials are concerned for the safety and livelihood of the Rohingya refugees during the upcoming summer months. Workers from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have distributed 33,000+ shelter kits to Rohingya families (Beaubien, 2018). The UNHCR also provide the refugees with bamboo poles and tarpaulins to weather proof their makeshift shelters (UNHCR, 2018). The workers are building latrines with cement foundations and holding tanks to cater basic sanitation. UNHCR is also securing infrastructure by reinforcing footpaths with bamboo, building retaining walls for soil stabilization, and building networks for drainage systems (UNHCR, 2018). Rohingya families are being relocated to safer areas with the help of the International Organization for Migration. In new relocation sites, mechanical diggers are decreasing the angle of steep hillsides by backfilling the valleys with soil to provide shelters with stable ground (UNHCR, 2018). Public health workers are digging deeper boreholes to draw cleaner water and prepositioning medicine to ensure availability to treatments in case of disease outbreaks within the settlements (Beaubien, 2018).
Long-term resilience plans for the Rohingya refugee crisis focus on involving perpetual responses to urgent humanitarian needs, the mobilization of necessary resources to support long-term development of formal communities, and a critical shift in policy to enhance the Rohingya refugees' rights, freedoms, and status (HPG, 2017). UNICEF's response plan prioritizes life-saving interventions that focus on providing safe water and basic sanitation, nutrition, vaccinations, psychosocial support, and education (UNICEF, 2017). Contributing parties that help finance Bangladesh's National Appropriate Programs of Action (NAPAs) include Australia, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States (UNFCCC, 2018). Bangladesh mainly focuses on climate change adaptation in the sectors of emergency preparedness, provisions of shelter and basic necessities during disasters, and promoting resiliency (UNFCCC, 2018).
About the Author
Deanna Sullivan is a class of 2020 Environmental Studies and Psychology double major at St. Lawrence University. She is originally from Corona, California. She plays on the varsity softball team at SLU. The webpage was created in Spring 2018 for Jon Rosales' course Adapting for Climate Change. Deanna has a passion for environmental justice.
Beaubien, Jason. “Monsoon Rains Could Devastate Rohingya Camps.” NPR, NPR, 7 Feb. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/02/07/583419363/monsoon-rains-could-devastate-rohingya-camps .
Christensen, J.H., K. Krishna Kumar, E. Aldrian, S.-I. An, I.F.A. Cavalcanti, M. de Castro, W. Dong, P. Goswami, A. Hall, J.K. Kanyanga, A. Kitoh, J. Kossin, N.-C. Lau, J. Renwick, D.B. Stephenson, S.-P. Xie and T. Zhou, 2013: Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Sci- ence Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
Hoskins, Brian J. “Atmospheric Processes and Observations.” Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, vol. 361, no. 1810, 2003, pp. 1945–1960. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3559154.
Kripalani, R., J. Kulkarni, S. Sabade, H. Chaudarhi, “South Asian Summer Monsoon Precipitation Variability: Coupled Climate Model Simulations and Projections under IPCC AR4,” Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 2007. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.456.3870&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Levermann, Anders, et al. “Basic Mechanism for Abrupt Monsoon Transitions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106, no. 49, 2009, pp. 20572–20577. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40536038.
Liu, Zhengyu. “Glacial Cycles and Indian Monsoon—A Southern Push.” Science, vol. 333, no. 6043, 2011, pp. 706–708. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27978382.
Loo, Yen, Lawal Billa, Ajit Singh, “Effect of Climate Change on Seasonal Monsoon in Asia and its Impacts on the Variability of Monsoon Rainfall in Southeast Asia,” vol. 6, no.6, 2015. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S167498711400036X
Miles, Tom. “U.N. says 100,000 Rohingya in grave danger from monsoon rains.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 29 Jan. 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-camps/u-n-says-100000-rohingya-in-grave-danger-from-monsoon-rains-idUSKBN1FI0W7.
Mirza, M., “Global Warming and Changes in the Probability of Occurance of Floods in Bangladesh,” Global Environmental Change, vol. 12, no. 2, 2002. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095937800200002X
“Rohingya Emergency.” UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, www.unhcr.org/en-us/rohingya-emergency.html.
“Rohingya Refugee Crisis.” OCHA, OCHA, 11 Dec. 2017, www.unocha.org/rohingya-refugee-crisis.
“UNHCR highlights the situation of Rohingya in no man's land, steps up preparations for monsoons.” UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 20 Feb. 2018, www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/briefing/2018/2/5a8be8b24/unhcr-highlights-situation-rohingya-mans-land-steps-preparations-monsoons.html.
UNICEF (2017). Evaluation of UNICEF's Response to the Rohingya Crisis in Bangladesh Terms of Reference. UNICEF. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from https://www.unicef.org/evaluation/files/Terms_of_Reference_for_the_Evaluation_of_ UNICEFs_repsonse_to_the_Rohingya_Crisis_in_Bangladesh.pdf.
UNFCCC (2018). NAPA Priorities Database. UNFCCC. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from https://unfccc.int/topics/resilience/workstreams/national-adaptation-programmes-of-action/napa-background
Wake, Caitlin, Brenda Yu, "The Rohingya Crisis: Making the Transition From Emergency to Longer-term Development." HPG, 2017, https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/12134.pdf