Table of Content
Table of Legislation
2. Aims and Objectives of the Study:
3. Methodology of the Study:
4. Origins of Riverbank Erosion Related Displacement:
4.1. Displacement Risk of Bangladesh
4.2. Socio-economic Perspectives of Displacement:
4.3. Current Impediments:
4.4. Slum Life of Bangladeshi People Displaced by River Erosion:
5. National Displacement Protection:
5.1 National Long-term Recovery Plan:
5.2 Good Governance for Displaced People:
5.3 Future of Displaced People and Climate Migrants:
6. Unaddressed Area of National Recovery Plan:
6.1 Source of New Lands for Riverbank Erosion Victims:
6.2 Protection under Civil Law of Bangladesh:
6.3 Legislative Barrier & Corruption Nexus:
7. International Remedies for Climate Refugee:
7.1. UNFCCC & Kyoto Protocol (KP):
7.2. The Paris Agreement:
7.3. Legal Recognition of IDP & Environmental Refugees:
7.4. Recognition of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands:
8. Conclusion & Recommendations:
List of Case References
River erosion is one of the most common crises of Ganges delta from ancient era where Bangladesh has no effective policy or management strategy for the internally displaced populations although there is a successful legislation from eighteen century to protect the property rights of the victims of riverbank erosion. The concurrent terrible features of climate change on Bangladesh pointed to the increasing magnitude of cyclone, drought, erosion, flood, storm and around one-third of the entire land surface of the country would go under water for one metre of sea level rise and almost thirty million people would have in the risk of displacement. Such uncertain features of climate change have incorporated the river erosion displaced populations in the same category of migrants where the intense of the crisis and disaster management strategy has huge gaps. The study has aimed to bring a dynamic balance between the national and international policy to protect the displaced people. The study has engaged with normative research methodology mixed with descriptive and critical approach. The outcomes of the study identified those river erosion victims such as the Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) necessities to treat as environmental migrant as well as to recognise as climate refugee. The study recommends that besides the damage restoration fund, the GHG emitting developed countries have to take the responsibility of climate-displaced population by providing them environmental refugee status.
BPC Bangladesh Planning Commission
DIA Disaster Impact Assessment
ECHR European Convention on Human Rights
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
GED General Economics Division
GHG Greenhouse gas
GoB Government of Bangladesh
HFA Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
KNMI Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
KP Kyoto Protocol
MoDMR Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief
NPDRM National Planning for Disaster Risk Management
PBL PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
SDGs Sustainable Development Goals
SFDRR Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030
TFEU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
WB World Bank
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Table of Legislation
The Bengal Alluvion and Diluvion Regulation, 1825
The Bengal Tenancy Act, 1885
The East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950
The Land Reforms Ordinance, 1984
The State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950
Bangladesh has been suffering from the Riverbank Erosion that causing Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs), millions of people are becoming landless and homeless and flees to the cities and towns from Riverbank areas. Islam and Rashid added that Bangladesh is a land of rivers where the riverbank erosion is a major natural crisis that forces millions of people to displace from their own places that incorporates at least 283 locations of 85 towns and business centres covering 2400 km length of riverbanks and several km of roads, railways.1 The major rivers of Bangladesh erode thousand hectares of cultivating lands by turning hundred thousands of incumbents landless and homeless in every rainy season of the year and forces to turn ‘Internally Displaced Populations’ (IDP) with unavoidable crisis of displacement.2
Westra pointed out that millions of people around globe under high risk of climate victim and to be ecological refuges due to greenhouse gas emulsion, rising temperature and warming, climate change, water and sea level rising caused Riverbank Erosion and submerged cultivating lands in the island nations of the Central and South Pacific including Bangladesh.3 Damage of flood-control embankments, challenges of sustainable development at the low-lying coastal areas, destruction of educational institutions, private and public infrastructures and so many kilometres of inter-district roads, and railways are also associated crisis of riverbank erosion in every year.4
2. Aims and Objectives of the Study:
There are huge studies with the crisis of riverbank erosion connecting with disaster management and protection victims, but no remarkable research agenda has yet raised to provide legal protection for people displaced by riverbank erosion. The objectives of the study is to provide national and international legal protection for the people displaced by riverbank erosion in this area and to do so, the study would first identify roots of the crisis, magnitude of crisis to the people displaced by riverbank erosion, its socio-economic impact, and environmentally sustainable and innovative disaster management plan in this regards. The study then scrutinise the local and international legislations available to protect the displaced by riverbank erosion as well as environmental victims and recommend for further protection. The paper would deal with following research questions-
- What are the geo-environmental and geopolitical causes of increasing riverbank erosion related displacement?
- How the existing legal realm expose the governmental drives are efficient to protect the displaced and disaster management?
- What ought to be the national and international legal remedies for the people displaced by riverbank erosion?
3. Methodology of the Study:
Although there is scope to use both normative and empirical approach for legal scholarship, the present study has aimed to engage with normative research methodology mixed with descriptive and critical approach. Does not go for data collection, but law, regulation, statute, judgement court verdicts, and case laws would be treated as primary sources and the books, journal articles and other publications would be considered as secondary sources. Three research questions have risen for this study where the first one is a descriptive, second one is critical, and the third is normative research question those seek to answer in order to reach at the findings and to draw conclusion and recommendations by using legal norms and external parameters.
4. Origins of Riverbank Erosion Related Displacement:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands pointed out those two trans-boundary rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges along with and huge tributaries have generated a very sad chapter nonstop riverbank erosion crisis from the ancient era and at the modernity the magnitude of erosion have increased dramatically.5 The Brahmaputra instigating from the glaciers of northern slopes of the Himalayan, which has named Manasarovar Lake in the surrounding area of the Mount Kailash and travels through southern Tibet and Assam Valley and then penetrated in Bangladesh as the river Jamuna. Kuehl added that the Ganges starting from the ‘Gangotri’ glaciers situated at the southern slopes of the Himalaya it runs through India and entered in Bangladesh as the river Padma and runs through the Bengal delta Basin to meet with the Bay of Bengal.6 The mainstream along with many tributaries of the Jamuna and the Padma meets each other at Goalundo Ghat and then joints with the Meghna near Chandpur and then flows to the Bay of Bangle.7
Ali pointed out that riverbank erosion is a most common natural phenomenon in the low-lying delta plain countries like Bangladesh where large number of rivers and tributaries such as the Padma, Jamuna and Meghna have extremely vulnerable character of erosion and destabilise the civilisation.8 For such geo-environmental situation, the risk of riverbank erosion related displacement has been increasing every year while similar displacement events occur in every rainy season.9 The riverbank erosion process has continuously increasing due to climate change and the events of endemic natural disasters are forcing the population to migrate internally, due to higher severity and dynamic erosion pattern, the mass people those area would displaced by leaving financial and material resources including land rights.10 Meanwhile the adaptation strategy of the national disaster management has adopted more emphasis on the reduction of rate of riverbank erosion rather than protecting the climate victims with new socio-environmental scheme to recover the damage.11
4-1. Displacement Risk of Bangladesh
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands mentioned that Bangladesh has ranked 152 out of 188 for its very nominal greenhouse gas emissions with approximate 0.36% of the global emissions, but it is the most vulnerable hotspot of climate change and placed at 6th for associated risk.12 Within 2030, Bangladesh would evidence 14 cm of the sea level rise, while 32 cm sea level rises by 2050 and 88 cm within 2100, which cause displacement of around 27 million people due to level rise.13
The Environmental Justice Foundation has presented terrible features of climate change on Bangladesh arguing that for just one metre of sea level rise would sink around one-third of the entire land surface of the country and almost 25-30 million people would have in the risk of displacing.14 The sea level rise would increase the magnitude of cyclone, drought, erosion, flood, and storm and by 2050, 14.29% of the population would be displaced due to the impact of climate change while the poor and vulnerable communities would forced flee.15
4-2. Socio-economic Perspectives of Displacement:
According to the report of Bangladesh Planning Commission, in 2015, GoB had estimated the damage of five major natural disasters since 1998 were around 15% of GDP, but a joint study of GoB and WB assessed the same at 0.5 to 1% of GDP per annum where environmental hazards generated from climate change and industrialisation have threaten public health, ecosystem and economy16. Indicating Bangladesh at the 7th vulnerable country in the Climate Risk Index in 2020, it added that climate change, riverbank erosion, floods has been forcing affected people to turn into climate refugees, flees and mass migration to urban areas as consequence of speedy carbon intensive urbanisation and global warming along with poor living situation that may treat them as IDPs.17 Thus, it has evidenced that the 8th Five Years Plan 2020-2025 prepared by GED and BPC18 and it has successfully addressed the issue of climate refugees while the NPDRM 2021 -2025 has missed to spell out the concerns of climate refugees and also the situation of the Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) along with sustainable development goal and economic progress19.
The Daily Star quoted the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and explored information that the riverbank erosion would erode around 28 km2 of land in the current year that incorporated dwelling houses and cultivating paddy fields and islands and the area is more than the destroyed land in the last year.20 The CEGIS21 under the ministry added that aggressively increasing riverbank erosions in the resent years in the rivers as the Jamuna and the Padma (Ganges) eroded 24 km2 of land in 2020 and the most vulnerability demonstrated in thirteen districts.22 Islam conducted a study at five (5) villages of Mymensingh district at riverbank of the Brahmaputra and the finding explored so sever on agriculture, livelihood, and natural resources that higher rate of population displacement has noted where 73% of the riverbank erosion victims took temporary migration and 27% were forced for permanent displacement.23
4-3. Current Impediments:
UNEP pointed out that Bangladesh has introduced its national environmental legal framework in 2017, it has constitutional proviso for a healthy and safe environment although it has adopted legal embargo on foreign funding for locally operated NGOs and do not recognise community and indigenous land tenure.24 Eckstein pointed out that based on the data of 2000 to 2019, Bangladesh has placed at the seventh position out of ten higher risk associated countries in the Climate Risk Index (CRI) with CRI score of 23.50 where flood, cyclone, riverbank erosion has been increasing disaster effects climate change and sea level rising.25 Wendling pointed out that in the Environmental Performance Index 2021, Bangladesh has ranked at 163rd position out of 180 countries where India placed at 168th with poor environmental performing countries and has no overall performance improvement last few years in Southern Asia.26
Weingast raised a significant question why the developing countries engaging their efforts to resistant the implication of the rule of law although there is increasing demand from development partners and civil society to integration ‘rule of law’ not only in the judiciary, but also for every development projects.27 Daniels and Trebilcock pointed out that the vexing struggle of implementing the rule of law has associated with the western development partners who have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars on the developing countries with improper motivation where the continuous efforts have seen to bring balance of human rights in context of economic interests.28
4-4. Slum Life of Bangladeshi People Displaced by River Erosion:
The magnitude of riverbank erosion in Bangladesh is so dangerous that the movable and immovable properties including dwelling house and agricultural lands go under the riverbed and victims of try to survive in his own location. Before river erosion they were sound and solvent in the rural economy and lived with dignity and respect, after the event of riverbank erosion, they cannot do any odd job in his own location and forced migrate to the urban areas. The slum dwelling houses are highly vulnerable to the wind flow and even rain ad well as natural disaster, very congested small room for many people, poor sewerage, sanitation, power and water supply and it can be pointed that slum dwellers are far away from the basic constitutional tights as well as human rights. There is no social safety net for the slum resident caused by river erosion; as a result, sometimes they have to survive on begging or to perform risky, hard working, and ‘no-work no-pay’ basis odd jobs. The slums have inferior public health facilities, absence of formal education, and safe place crime like drug and human trafficking.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted the census of slum areas population and identified that total number of populace of the slums were 2232114 in 2014 which was 1391458 in 1997 who line in the four (4) city corporation areas, fourteen (14) towns and hundred municipal areas29. Among the total slum population of Dhaka City Corporation are 18.96% are migrated due to river erosion, 12.17% of the slum dwellers of Chittagong City Corporation displaced by river erosion, 15.09% of the inhabitants of the Rajshahi City Corporation are river erosion migrants, and 3.01 % of the slum residents of Khulna City Corporation are the victims of river erosion.30 Moreover, 25.63% of the slum residents of other 100 municipal areas are river erosion victims, and 14.97% of the slum dwellers of fourteen (14) other towns are river erosion migrants.31 It clearly illustrated that 14.972% the total slum population caused by riverbank erosion.32
5. National Displacement Protection:
The MoDMR33 of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has published its National Planning for Disaster Risk Management (NPDRM) 2021 -2025 with highly ambitious governmental vision to reduce the risk of citizens mainly for the poor, underprivileged from the natural crisis, and environmental hazards at a tolerable humanitarian level with a competent emergency response management system.34 The action plans at the priority level of the NPDM35 2021-2025 explored that it has taken consultation of the widespread experts and stakeholders and setup its priorities and action plans in accordance with the approach of SFDRR36.
The first and foremost priority is to having better understandings of the disaster risk emphasising on free flow of information, knowledge management, networking with growing awareness, study and development activities as well.37 Meanwhile the second priority is to back up the disaster risk governance with cooperation of public private partnership, regional and international collaboration to strengthen the disaster management with DIA38 while the coordination among the concerned ministries is more essential for institutional capacity building.39 The MoDMR sets its third priority on the funding for disaster risk reduction with ‘all-hazards’ approach of the SFDRR to building up institution to address the major hazards like cyclones, floods and riverbank erosion.40 Furthermore, the forth priority is to render for effectual reaction regarding disaster vigilance with early warning and forecasting mechanism to “Build Back Better” to upturn and rehabilitate the climate victims and emphasised to render at a manageable range with multilateral recovery measures.41
1 MD Fakrul Islam and ANM Baslur Rashid, ‘Riverbank Erosion Displacees in Bangladesh: need for institutional response and policy intervention’ (2012) 2(2), Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics, 4–19 <https://doi.org/10.3329/bioethics.v2i2.9540> accessed 06 August 2021.
2 ibid 1.
3 Laura Westra L, Environmental Justice and the Rights of Ecological Refugees (1st edn, Earthscan 2009)
4 ibid 3.
5 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, ‘Climate Change Profile Bangladesh’ (2018) <https://www.government.nl/binaries/government/documents/publications/2019/02/05/climate-change-profiles/Bangladesh.pdf> accessed 04 August 2021.
6 Steven Kuehl and others, ‘The Ganges–Brahmaputra Delta’ (2005) <https://www.vims.edu/people/kuehl_sa/pubs/SEPMG-BDelta.pdf> accessed 06 August 2021.
7 ibid 6.
8 Md Rayhan Ali and others, ‘River Bank Erosion, Induced Population Migration and Adaptation Strategies in the Sirajganj Sadar Upazila, Bangladesh’ (2021) 2(2) European Journal of Environment and Earth Sciences 131.
9 ibid 8.
10 ibid 8.
11 ibid 8.
12 ibid 5.
13 ibid 5.
14 Environmental Justice Foundation, ‘ On the Frontlines Climate change in Bangladesh’ (2019) <https://ejfoundation.org/resources/downloads/Climate-Displacement-Bangladesh-briefing-2018-v20.pdf> accessed 07 August 2021.
15 Ibid 3.
16 Bangladesh Planning Commission, ‘8th Five Year Plan 2020-2025’ (2020) <http://plancomm.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/plancomm.portal.gov.bd/files/68e32f08_13b8_4192_ab9b_abd5a0a62a33/2021-02-03-17-04-ec95e78e452a813808a483b3b22e14a1.pdf> accessed 02 August 2021.
17 GED, 'Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100: Baseline Studies on Water Resources Management' (2018) <http://www.plancomm.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/plancomm.portal.gov.bd/files/2f71543b_fae4_4af8_8f38_2a83908fe06b/BDP%202100%20BL%20Study%20Volume%201%20Part%20A%20Water%20Resources%20Management.pdf> accessed 027 July 2021.
18 Bangladesh Planning Commission
19 Bangladesh Planning Commission, ‘8th Five Year Plan 2020-2025’ (n 2).
20 The Daily Star, ‘River Erosion May Eat Up 28sq km area: Forecasts a Govt Research Organisation’ (2021) <https://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/news/river-erosion-may-eat-28sq-km-area-2109245> accessed 12 June 2021.
21 Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services
22 Ibid 20.
23 Md. Azharul Islam and others, ‘Impacts of Riverbank Erosion Hazards in the Brahmaputra Floodplain Areas of Mymensingh in Bangladesh’ (2017) 28(2), Progressive Agriculture, 73–83 <https://www.banglajol.info/index.php/PA/article/view/33467> accessed 30 July 2021.
24 UNEP, ‘UNEP 2021 Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law’ (2020) <https://www.iucn.org/sites/dev/files/content/documents/2020/unep_2021_global_report_on_environmental_rule_of_law_concept_note_-_for_distribution.pdf> accessed 06 August 2021.
25 David Eckstein and others, ‘Global Climate Risk Index 2021: Who Suffers Most from Extreme Weather Events?’ (2021) <https://germanwatch.org/sites/default/files/Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202021_1.pdf> accessed 06 August 2021.
26 Zachary A Wendling and others ‘2020 Environmental Performance Index, New Haven, CT: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy’ (2020) <https://epi.yale.edu/downloads/epi2020report20210112.pdf> accessed 06 August 2021.
27 Barry R Weingast, ‘Why Developing Countries Prove So Resistant to the Rule of Law’ (2008) < http://jenni.uchicago.edu/WJP/Vienna_2008/Weingast_ROL_MS_2%2000_08-0519.pdf> accessed 02 August 2021.
28 Ronald J Daniels and Michael Trebilcock, ‘The Political Economy of Rule of Law Reform in Developing Countries’ (2004) 26(1) Michigan Journal of International Law <https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1217&context=mjil> accessed 04 August 2021.
29 Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, ‘Census of Slum Areas and Floating Population 2014’ (2015) <http://188.8.131.52:8008/WebTestApplication/userfiles/Image/Slum/FloatingPopulation2014.pdf> accessed 07 August 2021.
30 ibid 29.
31 ibid 29.
32 ibid 29.
33 The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief
34 MoDMR, ‘ National Planning for Disaster Risk Management (NPDRM) 2021 -2025’ (2020) <https://modmr.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/modmr.portal.gov.bd/page/a7c2b9e1_6c9d_4ecf_bb53_ec74653e6d05/NPDM2021-25%20DraftVer5_23032020.pdf> accessed 02 August 2021.
35 National Planning for Disaster Risk Management
36 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030
37 ibid 34.
38 Disaster Impact Assessment
39 ibid 34.
40 ibid 34.
41 ibid 34.