30 million Bangladeshis exposed : EquityBD demands int’l recognition, rehab

Staff Correspondent

As more than 10 million Bangladeshis are about to be displaced because of the effects of climate change, a rights organisation on Saturday called for recognising such refugees as ‘universal natural persons’ for their social, economic and cultural rehabilitation.
   Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh, is now communicating with the global civil society organisations and legendary figures like Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Al Gore, to uphold the cause of the people vulnerable to climate change at the United Nations level, said the group’s leaders.
   Although the international literatures based on forecast reports say approximately 22 million people in Bangladesh will be forced to become refugees under the impact of climate change by 2050, about 30 million people in 19 districts have already been found exposed to climate change in extreme weather conditions, sea level rise and river erosion.
   ‘Symptoms and effects of climate change are already there in at least 19 districts, making most people there vulnerable. So, the global community must recognise it as a serious issue and treat them as universal natural persons to ensure their rights,’ Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, convenor of the group, said while briefing journalists at the National Press Club.
   Because of climate change, Kutubdia, an island in the Bay of Bengal, has been reduced to a 15-square-kilometre-area from its earlier size of 25 square kilometres while many inhabitants of Bhola have been forced to migrate elsewhere at home or abroad, he said citing the examples of displacement.
   ‘Many of these people, who are not political refugees, are being treated inhumanly. They deserve international recognition as their plight is not because of themselves, but because of crimes committed by others,’ said Mohammad Shamsoddoha, secretary general of the group. Shahadat Islam Chowdhury and Mostafa Kamal Akanda of the group also spoke.
   As the developed countries are mostly responsible for the accumulation of Green House gases and eventually for climate change catastrophes, the rights leaders insisted, they should accept the responsibility of rehabilitating the displaced people.
   The campaign by these rights activists aimed at generating civil society voices ahead of the International Refugee Day on June 20, especially to raise the demand for economic, social, cultural, and human rights of ‘climate change refugees’ in the light of international and UN covenants for their settlement in or migration to advanced countries.
   Bangladesh, identified in various global reports as one of the most vulnerable countries, is the first country from where the demand for respectful recognition of the climate change refugees has been made. Bangladesh, as a member of the group of least developed countries, is also demanding movement of natural persons at the forum of World Trade Organisation.
   The EquityBD has also urged the government to raise the issue of climate change effects, asking the global community to pay due attention to the affected peoples in countries like Bangladesh.

Source: The Daily New Age, 05 April 2009



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