With seasons, birds migrate for the sake of survival, albeit temporarily. Humans too, leave their roots for economic, social, political or environmental factors. Push and pull factors influence this decision for a renewed existence in a strange land and this is not a new phenomenon. Yet forced migration is a grim reality that changes the course of life for many. According to Forced Migration Online, forced migration is induced by conflict, development or disastrous events.
Development projects steer growth in the economy yet large-scale infrastructural initiatives such as dams, roads, ports, airports; urban clearance initiatives; mining and deforestation forces people to move. Dams and hydropower projects have been the major cause of displacement in South Asia (Barnali, 2006)
Between 1957-1963, the dam constructed in Kaptai in Rangamati region in Bangladesh flooded 54,000 acres of land, taking away 40% of cultivable land available for cultivation from the tribal farmers. 100,000 tribals were affected, most without any compensation. Forced migration was induced by development, which led to thousands of people fleeing to India. 40,000 displaced people were moved to Arunachal Pradesh by the Indian Government. In Pakistan, Mangla Dam, Tarbela Dam, Ghaji Barotha Hydropower project among others were culprits for the internal displacement of people. In the Northeast region of India, the Dumbur dam of Tripura displaced 35,000-40,000 people, Loktak project in Manipur displaced around 20,000 people and the Pagladiya Dam Project of lower Assam is expected to affect 1,50,000. Some of the most vulnerable and displaced groups in South Asia are often indigenous people and the minority communities. A vicious cycle of victimization and abuse hit hard on women, children, aged and the sick who were marginalized in the first place.
Development partners are increasingly conscious of social impact assessment study, provision for resettlement and compensation and safeguard measures. Asian Development Bank for example has stringent toolkits for settlements, conservation and sustainable development. The function of government partners should be aligned to the monitoring standards of development partners. Project implementation partners and local stakeholders should be on the same page. Awareness of impact and risks should be provided to local communities. The board of a project should ideally include grassroots community leaders, advocacy groups as well as environmentalists – to provide a holistic representation compiling an aggregate picture.
With climate change as a reality, there is the consequence of refugees due to climatic disruptions and geo-physical transformations. Surely humans can control the tenacity and degree of development induced migration. Community participation and freedom for advocacy and pressure groups is ideal to protect the rights of vulnerable people affected by development projects. On the other hand, all countries should devise adequate safeguard measures for initiatives for transport, infrastructure or public works.
Choudhury, Barnalee, Development Induced Internal Displacement in South Asia, Refugee Watch Online, Jan 24, 2006
Terminski, Bogumil, Development-Induced Displacement and Resettlement: Causes, Consequences, and Socio-legal Context, Ibidem Press, Stuttgart, 2015
Gugoff, Casey, Climate Change and Conflict in Migration from Bangladesh to Assam (India), ICE Case Studies # 260, December 2011
History of the Chittagong Hill Tracts