Luz Photo Agency
14.11.2011

Environmental migrants, the last illusion. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Alessandro Grassani

Environmental migrants: the last illusion. 2008 became the point of no return: for the first time in history there are more people living in cities than in rural areas. Cities will grow even larger due to climate change and to environmental migrants, who are destined to become the new humanitarian emergency of the planet in the next few decades. According to a forecast by the United Nations, in 2050 the Earth will have to face the trauma depicted by 200 million “environmental migrants”: people who, according to the UN, will not “land” in the richer nations, but will look for new ways of livelihood in the urban areas of their home countries, which are already overcrowded and often extremely poor. The consequences are and will also be disastrous from a social, economical and environmental viewpoint for these cities. 90% of this kind of migration will occur literally in less developed countries, with relocation from rural areas to the more degraded areas of the city known as slums. What will happen is that the poorest countries, those who have least contributed to climate change, will be the worse hit by this phenomenon due to the lack of funds invested in alternative development policies in those areas which become inhabitable. The cities in these countries have already become victims of climate change and are destined to expand further due to unemployment, poverty and inhumane social conditions.

Chapter two: Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the countries which is most seriously affected by climate change. It is constantly battered by cyclones, coastal surges, overflowing rivers and violent downpours. Environmental migrants from across the country are pouring into the capital Dhaka escaping flooding that has destroyed not only their homes but their livelihoods too. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year; most of whom are environmental refugees. Miles of slums are home to these refugees who live quite literally piled on top of each-other. Dhaka is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world.

1/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dacope district. 04/2011. Due to the cyclone Aila which hit Bangladesh in May 2009, here the river has flooded its banks and some areas and villages are still under water. In the phto a fisherwoman © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

2/36

Asia, Bangladesh. 07/2011.The Ganges Delta: cattle farmers cutting grass for their animals on what was once an inhabited Char, the Char of Gazura, now submerged by the River Meghna. “Char” in Bangla means “island”. These islands are temporary due to the constant erosion of existing islands and to the formation of new ones. These environmental conditions make the local population extremely vulnerable and force them to continually emigrate from one char to another or towards the cities. To make their lives worse, frequent floods, sea level rise and the knowledge that the whole area of the Ganges Delta and the Sundarbans could be completely submerged by the end of the century if climate change continues at this rate © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

3/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Satkhira district. 07/2011. Mr. Anisuzzaman together with some neighbours outside his home in the village of Debnagar. He lives with his wife Fazila Khatum in the tiny village of  Debnagarin the Shatkira district where he was born. Here the river has flooded its banks every year for the past nine years and the people are used to living underwater for five months a year. They are frightened; they never know how much water will come and how suddenly; but their home is here and they don’t know where else to go. They used to cultivate rice but now it is impossible: they live by selling poultry at the market © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

4/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Ganges Delta. 07/2011. 600 families live on Bongor char. There are at least 300 children but no school. The inhabitants are all fishermen. Bongor char has been flooded 4 times by the Meghna river in the last eight years and the river has eroded two-thirds of its original size in the last three years. At this rate, Bongor char will disappear completely in the space of a year and a half and its inhabitants will be forced to emigrate. In the photo a young shepherd with his flock, crosses a part of the char which has been constantly submerged by the River Meghna for the past few months. “Char” in Bangla means “island”. These islands are temporary due to the constant erosion of existing islands and to the formation of new ones. These environmental conditions make the local population extremely vulnerable and force them to continually emigrate from one char to another or towards the cities. To make their lives worse, frequent floods, sea level rise and the knowledge that the whole area of the Ganges Delta and the Sundarbans could be completely submerged by the end of the century if climate change continues at this rate © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

5/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Begherhat district, Posurbonia villagge. This woman lives in Posurbonia villagge and her house and her husband were washed away by the cyclone Sidr. She still lives in the temporary house in her background in the middle of the jungle © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

6/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Ganges Delta. 07/2011. 600 families live on Bongor char. There are at least 300 children but no school. The inhabitants are all fishermen. Bongor char has been flooded 4 times by the Meghna river in the last eight years and the river has eroded two-thirds of its original size in the last three years. At this rate, Bongor char will disappear completely in the space of a year and a half and its inhabitants will be forced to emigrate. “Char” in Bangla means “island”. These islands are temporary due to the constant erosion of existing islands and to the formation of new ones. These environmental conditions make the local population extremely vulnerable and force them to continually emigrate from one char to another or towards the cities. To make their lives worse, frequent floods, sea level rise and the knowledge that the whole area of the Ganges Delta and the Sundarbans could be completely submerged by the end of the century if climate change continues at this rate © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

7/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Shatkira district. 07/2011. Salma Khatun, 25 years old, in her flooded house. She lives in a small village a few miles from Shatkira © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

8/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dacope district. 04/2011. Due to the cyclone Aila which hit Bangladesh in May 2009, thousands of people are still displaced in the Dacope district and the whole area, which was once farmland, has now completely dried up due to the infiltration of sea water brought by the cyclone Aila and by shrimp farming. A woman searching for drinking water carrying the traditional water container. Lack of drinking water is the biggest problem for people living in the area © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

9/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dacope district. 04/2011. Due to the cyclone Aila which hit Bangladesh in May 2009, thousands of people are still displaced in the Dacope district. In the photo people who live in the area of Kamarcola are still living in temporary accommodation, and the whole area, which was once farmland, has now completely dried up due to the infiltration of sea water brought by the cyclone Aila and by shrimp farming © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

10/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dacope district. 04/2011. Due to the cyclone Aila which hit Bangladesh in May 2009, thousands of people are still displaced in the Dacope district and the whole area, which was once farmland, has now completely dried up due to the infiltration of sea water brought by the cyclone Aila and by shrimp farming. Lack of drinking water is the biggest problem for people living in the area © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

11/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Shatkira district. 07/2001. Shrimp farms © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

12/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. Crowds of people and traffic jams are the picture postcard of Dhaka which is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

13/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. Crowds of people and traffic jams are the picture postcard of Dhaka which is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

14/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. Crowds of people and traffic jams are the picture postcard of Dhaka which is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year. Travelling like sardines and waiting hours to manage to get on a bus © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

15/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. The lack of urban planning is literally allowing a part of the city to sink and during the rainy season many areas of the city are often flooded, In the photo the area of Mirpur during a strong rain © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

16/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. Crowds of people and traffic jams are the picture postcard of Dhaka which is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

17/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Hundreds of people is living beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year; most of whom are environmental refugees. Miles of slums are home to these refugees who live quite literally piled on top of each-other. Dhaka is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

18/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. View of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

19/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. View of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

20/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. On the streets of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka, in the background a building belonging to the area of Gulshan. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

21/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. On the streets of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka, in the background the area of Gulshan. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

22/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. On the streets of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

23/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. Abdul Aziz, 45 years old, and his family live in a small room in the Baunia slum. In the photo one of the Abdul Aziz’s son is sleeping on the bed before going to work in a garmens. Abdul Aziz decided to emigrate with his wife and three children to Dhaka one year ago after the River Meghna submerged his village, Bapari Kande, in the district of Chandpur. Abdul used to be a fisherman but now works as a night watchman. He says his life used to be fantastic; he had two boats and some land and could keep his family and send his children to school, while now he has to send them to work © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

24/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Hundreds of people is living beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year; most of whom are environmental refugees. Miles of slums are home to these refugees who live quite literally piled on top of each-other. Dhaka is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

25/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Hundreds of people is living beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year; most of whom are environmental refugees. Miles of slums are home to these refugees who live quite literally piled on top of each-other. Dhaka is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

26/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Golape's son is washing tooth in early morning, he is 19 years old, he didn't go to school and he works only sometimes as a truck driver. They live beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where hundreds of people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. Interviewed she says: “I am from Islampur village under Jamalpur Thana. We were sleeping at night. Suddenly we heard the strong noise of wind. We were terrified and then woke up. We saw the river bank been swallowed fiercely. Our house was just at the bank of the river. And it was also swallowed. I lost my husband there. By the Grace of Allah I somehow escaped with one child on my shoulder and another child in my womb. Then I was in indecision of where to stay, what to do and what to eat. We were well off when my husband was alive. We had good meal, and we had good house. But after the death of my husband we became helpless. We did not have any house to live and anywhere to go. Eventually, I decided to move to Dhaka from Jamalpur. We took a train from Jamalpur to Dhaka. Then I took a shelter in Dhaka beside the railway. I was trying whether I can have good meals and a good place to stay. But here I cannot do so since this is a tiny place beside the railroad. And I am still living here with my two children. " © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

27/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Mohammed Monjur Ali, 45 years is working as a barber in the same slum where hi lives with his family. . He is living with his family beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where hundreds of people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. His wife, Nomataz Begun, interviewed says: “I usud to lived in Jainjhar Bajar by the side of Konkso river; Union was Kahor Gao: Upazilla: Durgapur: Netrokuna District. I used to live there for many years. On one stormy night there was heavy raining and the river became violent and furios. Suddenly a part of our homestead was eroded up by the river, taking away some of our belongings like beds and cooking utensils. I with my daughter managed to pick some belongings up from the current though. After loosing our home to the konkso, we made a temporary makshift on the market place of our union by the side of river but there were torrential rain and lightening which made us to move towards Dhaka at the middle of the night with what we had left. In Dhaka we build this small house just beside the railtracks…living with my family my husband work here as a barbar. We are struggling to live a decent life with his pretty small income. That’s enough.” © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

28/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka, 04/2011. Salim Howlader , 60 years old, at work. He came to Dhaka in 2007 after the cyclone Sidr destroyed his house, interviewed says: “My name is Salim Howlader. I came from Bagerhat district, from village of Samyasi to Dhaka with my whole family and now living here. I am living in a great hardship now. My wife works in other’s house as a housemaid, and she earn 600 taka per month (6 euros). Six hundred taka is not enough to run my family. We are suffering a lot. I have three sons and three daughters. I have two matured daughters at home. I am struggling a lot. I cannot marry off the two daughters. I works as an assistant to a mason, I sometimes finds work, sometimes not. When I cannot find works then we have to live on credit, and borrow money with interest. Otherwise, we cannot sustain. This way we are in a problematic situation. My sons cannot work. One son is mentally retard; he stays and works in other’s house. This is how I am living now. Due to the cyclone Sidr I lost my house and all other belongings, and now I am forced to live in a problematic condition like this. “ © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

29/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Hundreds of people is living beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. Dhaka has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 400,000 newcomers entering the city each year; most of whom are environmental refugees. Miles of slums are home to these refugees who live quite literally piled on top of each-other. Dhaka is considered to be the fastest-growing city in the world © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

30/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Nomataz Begun' s daughter taken at night togheter with her son outside their "house" she is living with her family beside the railroad in Kawran bazar slum where hundreds of people are living a miserable life without running water and work in an unsanitary environment. Nomataz Begun interviewed says: “I usud to lived in Jainjhar Bajar by the side of Konkso river; Union was Kahor Gao: Upazilla: Durgapur: Netrokuna District. I used to live there for many years. On one stormy night there was heavy raining and the river became violent and furios. Suddenly a part of our homestead was eroded up by the river, taking away some of our belongings like beds and cooking utensils. I with my daughter managed to pick some belongings up from the current though. After loosing our home to the konkso, we made a temporary makshift on the market place of our union by the side of river but there were torrential rain and lightening which made us to move towards Dhaka at the middle of the night with what we had left. In Dhaka we build this small house just beside the railtracks…living with my family my husband work here as a barbar. We are struggling to live a decent life with his pretty small income. That’s enough.” © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

31/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka, 04/2011. Salim Howlader's daughter Nasima, 20 years old, at night in their corrugated iron home in a small slum just outside Dhaka. He came to Dhaka in 2007 after the cyclone Sidr destroyed his house, interviewed says: “My name is Salim Howlader. I came from Bagerhat district, from village of Samyasi to Dhaka with my whole family and now living here. I am living in a great hardship now. My wife works in other’s house as a housemaid, and she earn 600 taka per month (6 euros). Six hundred taka is not enough to run my family. We are suffering a lot. I have three sons and three daughters. I have two matured daughters at home. I am struggling a lot. I cannot marry off the two daughters. I works as an assistant to a mason, I sometimes finds work, sometimes not. When I cannot find works then we have to live on credit, and borrow money with interest. Otherwise, we cannot sustain. This way we are in a problematic situation. My sons cannot work. One son is mentally retard; he stays and works in other’s house. This is how I am living now. Due to the cyclone Sidr I lost my house and all other belongings, and now I am forced to live in a problematic condition like this. “ © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

32/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 04/2011. Mohammad Delowar Munsi and his family sleeping in the room where they live. Mohammad Delowar Munsi, 35 years old, emigrated to Dhaka in 2007 after the cyclone Sidr destroyed his house and killed all his animals. Now he lives in the slum of Rargarbad together with his wife and three children in a small house built of corrugated iron. He became a rickshaw puller and earns between 100 and 150 Thaka per day (1-1,50 euro): a kg of rice costs between 40 and 60 Thaka and the money he earns is barely enough to feed his family. Mohammad Delowar Munsi interviewed says: “My name is Mohammad Delowar Munsi. I am from Morolgonj Thana under the Bagerhat District and Khulna Division. There was a massive destruction by the Sidor in our area. The Sidor brought flood and the flood washed away our houses and other properties. We took shelter at a school in Sanyasibazar during the flood. When we returned home after the flood we found that there was nothing left. Everything was washed away including our house, cows, goats, chickens and ducks. The only belonging we had was the clothes we were wearing at that time. We were very poor. We used to work at others’ field, and with others’ boats and fishing nets. They also lost their fishing nets and fishing boats during the Sidor. Therefore, we could no longer work with them. Under this circumstance, we could not find any place to live and any source of income. Under this severe hardship we stayed there nearly a month after the Sidor. Without no other alternative option for survival we moved to Dhaka along with our small children. Since, I do not have any expertise on any job or profession I was forced to pull a Rickshaw. With this job we are somehow managing our life in Dhaka. “ © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

33/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. Noor Islam, 45 years old, photographed in his corrugated iron home in the slum of Baunia in Dhaka, where 15,000 to 20,000 families live. They emigrated to Dhaka four years ago after the River Sommosori submerged their village called Hujura in the districe of Netlokona. Their home and land are still underwater after four years. They had lost everything including their 8 cows, so they decided to move to Dhaka. They had heard that there was a lot of industries in the capital and that earnings were good, but unfortunately that is not so. They have an 8-month old son and two others who are 13 and 15 years old and work in the garmens to help the family: the two boys together earn 5500 thaka a month (55 euro) for working 12 hours a day, and when they came to the city they stopped going to school. Noor now drives a rickshaw and manages to earn between 100 and 150 thaka a day (1-1,5 euro); a kilo of rice costs between 40 and 60 thaka. His wife looks after the baby and the family © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

34/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. A malnourished man on the streets of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

35/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. On the streets of Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka. The slum is located in the city centre, next to Gulshan, the wealthliest area of Dhaka. The price per square metre of an apartment varies between 10,000 and 18,000 dollars and is ever-increasing due to the high demand for building land. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people are living in Korail; a number which is difficult to determine exactly © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz

36/36

Asia, Bangladesh, Dhaka. 07/2011. On the streets of Baunia, a slum in Dhaka where 15,000 to 20,000 families live © Alessandro Grassani / LUZphoto
Luz