While data remains scarce on the multiple causes driving current and future migrants to flee their homes, a new report points to the frightening conjunction of climate, water resources, and conflict could find one billion people in search of safety by 2050.
Water and Migration: A Global Overview, from United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health, “offers insights into water and migration interlinkages, and suggests how to tackle existing gaps and needs,” reports the InterPress Service. Among the “discomfiting patterns and trends” found in the UNU report: migration is not a matter of choice, but “reflects the systemic inequalities and social justice issues pertaining to water rights and climate change adaptation”.
The dominant movement of displaced people is from rural to urban when migration occurs, Inter Press adds, and “effective management options at local, national, regional, and global scales” are currently limited by “a severe lack of quantitative information and understanding regarding direct and indirect water- and climate-related drivers of migration.”
Unregulated migration and the resulting unplanned urbanization cause “pressure on water demand and increase the health risks and burdens for migrants as well as hosting states and communities,” the report states, adding that “migration should be formally recognized as an adaptation strategy for water and climate crises.”
Concrete causes and consequences of migration include the “shrinking of Lake Chad in Africa and the Aral Sea in Central Asia,” the “rapid urbanization of the Nile delta,” and “the plight of island nations facing both rising seas and more frequent, more intense extreme weather events.”
The price tag for responding to these issues will be steep, notes the UNU report, but they must be paid to avoid a steeper price down the road: “While the cost of responses may cause concerns, the cost of no decisions will certainly surpass that.”