“Ecocide” refers to the purposefully environmental degradation or intentionally killing nature. The American biologist Arthur Galston proclaimed the term for the first in 1970 at the Conference on War and National Responsibility. History dictates ecocide as a counter-strategy to prevent war-affected communities from returning to their homes. In the current era of the evolution of war strategies, the world is commonly witnessing ecocides and large-scale environmental displacement by implementing highly profitable development projects.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre uncovered that14.6 million additional internal displacements across 127 countries by the first half of 2020. Natural calamities and human-made ecocides have stimulated a large portion of the newly displaced persons. In the early six months of 2020, about 4.7 million people were newly displaced due to natural catastrophes in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is one of the most climate-affected countries in the world. It is approximated that a person among every seven living in Bangladesh will be displaced due to climate-related causes by 2050. In the time duration, rising sea levels may forcefully expel over 18 million people in the coastal regions and 80% of the country’s flood lands. By 2050, the exact estimation portrays that a 50 cm increase in the sea level will cost 11 percent of Bangladesh’s lands. Consequently, over 15 million of the population living in low-lying coastal locations will be impacted.
The melting ice of the Himalayan and the overflowing rivers are triggering ecological displacements with the growing industrialization and militarization in the developing countries. The heightening developmental schemes in the developing countries struggling with their disaster-prone ecosystem are the extreme ecocidal cases in the world. The author illustrates how environmentally damaged countries like Bangladesh create an enormous displacement dilemma by implementing various development projects. The material and non-material costs of the projects instead trigger a large portion of nationals to underdevelopment.
The Scenario of Ecocides in Bangladesh
At present, intensifying ecocidal attempts by undertaking developmental operations is a common scenario all over the world. More than 15,000 dams around the globe displaced than 60 million of the population. Hence, the global measurement scale of advancement can not be possible without considering a considerable population fighting with displacement’s shared challenges. Hence, in the race of modernization, the ecological refugees are the extremely unrecognized victims of this traditional development.
For instance, the Eucalyptus plantation plan of Thailand forcefully dethroned more than ten million villagers at a time. Similarly, the Three Georges Dam of China compelled more than 1.2 million people to move. Recently, the Sri Lankan government initiated a development scheme that acquired 15,000 acres and displaced almost thousands of households. At the same time, India is not an exception, and we can mention cases like Tipaimukh Dam in this regard.
Bangladesh’s geographic location is the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, the largest in the world. It is the primary reason for the country’s horrible flood happenings every year. With Bangladesh’s Delta Disasters, the development undertakings of the Southeast Asian neighbors are also triggering the victimization of the rural and coastal population. Hence, China and India’s heightening competitive behavior focusing on dam construction and water politics is making Bangladesh more unprotected from ecological dilemmas. Therefore, the development of the Three Georges Dam and Super Dam of China and the construction of over 100 dams in India swerved the Brahmaputra river. Simultaneously, the opening of the Indian dam gates of the 54 international rivers in the monsoons overflows the river water into Bangladesh. By July 2020, 80 percent of the plain lands flooded, and a quarter of the total population was fighting against the overflowing rivers. In the rural side of the country, millions of households are rendered homeless and jobless due to river erosion at the same time. According to one of the farmers of Sirajganj, Omar Faruk described the suddenness of the event, how the river engulfed about 12 villages within a month, and more than ten villages are in a difficult situation to be disappeared.5 They lost everything to survive so that displacement is the ultimate fate.
Additionally, rising sea level due to ice melting is inundating a large portion of low-lying coastal land and increasing salinity at an alarming level. People leave their homes in the face of the lack of drinking water, lack of food security, lack of agriculture and aquaculture facilities, water-born acute skin diseases, and other types of infections. The Chittagong, Barisal, and Khulna are the most vulnerable divisions to soil and water salination. Every year approximately 15,000 to 30,000 households leave their homes to survive due to the rising salinity. An assessment dictates that by 2050, more than 55 percent of the districts will be impacted by extreme salinity.
Ecological disruption forces them to migrate internally, and they survive with the plight of repeated displacement. All temporary and permanently displaced persons have no basic need, while education and health safety will be a luxury for them. Daily 1000-2000 climate-affected rural people are moving to Dhaka as their last resort to exist2.
Furthermore, the construction of the Kaptai Dam is the cruelest example of ecocide in Bangladesh. Firstly, indiscriminate deforestation caused massive damage to the environment and the sources of livelihood of the tribal and non-tribal population. Secondly, it displaced hundreds of thousands of Chakma families. Among the total households evicted, 70 percent of them belonged to the Chakma community.3 Bijoy Ketan, a Chakma politician, expressed how viciously their harmony of life was destroyed by the dam project leading them vulnerable to environmental pollution and impoverishment.5 As a consequence, numerous tribal people left the country for good. In recent years, the dam flooded over 54,000 acres and forced people to migrate temporarily from their homes.
The Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge is one of Bangladesh’s most significant infrastructure development projects, completed in 1998. The project vanquished more than 7000 acres of land, which was the home to over 1,00,000 locals. Sixteen thousand five hundred families lost their properties and means of livelihood. Five thousand families were displaced through the completion of the project. Unfortunately, only 1231 households were resettled by the government.
Moreover, the most extreme case in history ever is the Rampal Coal-Fired Power Plant located within 10 km of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh’s life. This plan will destructively alter the life standard of the millions of people living on the Sundarbans. Millions of locals will lose their livelihood as they are mainly generating income by aquaculture and agriculture. 95.1 percent of the land acquired for the project was used for shrimp production, while 0.8 percent was used as the habitation of over 104 families. The Pasur river is the breath of the Mangrove forest. The plant will consume the water of the river, which is the drinking water and livelihood of the locals. The cost of the river’s loss will compel the locals to move from their homes for good. According to the forest and biodiversity experts, the plant will increase the water temperature, which will damage the biodiversity of the water in the Sundarbans. The Joint Secretary of the Bangladesh Environment Movement, Ibdar Habib, highlighted the significance of the forest for the survival of the country:
“I don’t think it’s just a forest. It’s a barrier to protect our country from natural disasters. I think, if the Sundarbans are gone, we will lose at least 40 percent of our country”.5
The fishermen are in great distress about the effects of the plant on the forest and them. The high wage offering from the plant construction site seems a negative indicator towards life standard.
At the same time, the Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant is also noteworthy as an episode of ecocide. Bangladesh is on the way to gaining status as a nuclear power which can never be a rational choice for such a climate-affected country. The scheme is increasing the vulnerabilities of the country related to the environment. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb blasts were the first nuclear catastrophe the world witnessed in 1945 as a counterattack strategy. The massive displacement and suffering of the Japanese population horrified the world people, and the damages of the incidents can never be paid back. Another horrible case is the Chernobyl exploitation which left 20 percent of the Russian lands unthinkable to live. As a result, many locals were compelled to leave their home districts to escape from the radiation and the unrepairable destruction. The environmentally vulnerable Bangladesh needs development policies to represent the country’s people rather than power to manage the internal ecological displacements. The lack of radioactive waste management and transparency in the implementation can turn Bangladesh into a disastrous nuclear-affected one. Hence, such hazardous ecocides can render our entire nation stateless and displaced.
Human civilization’s historical evolution portrays a relationship of exploitation and profit maximization between the environment and humans. As a result, the world’s people are struggling with acts of revenge by the environment. This is the natural cause of environmental refugee generation and climate displacements. However, the ecocides, the human-made deliberate decline of the environment are rapidly stimulating the displacement phenomena.
The geographical climate vulnerabilities are worsening by the additional ecocidal schemes that are implemented in Bangladesh. The neighboring ecological disruptions are further striking the environmental setting of the country. The incidents are pushing millions of the territory people to move temporarily or permanently regularly. Usually, the ecological displaced persons are the victims of repeated displacement.
Recommendations to uphold the sufferings of climate refugees:
- Ecological degradation must be regarded as a crime against peace and survival in disaster-prone countries. The measure will help the national authorities to address the massive amount of environmental refugees in an empathetic manner first. Moreover, protection can be ensured after their proper recognition.
- Development can not be achieved without the inclusion of the majority of people of a country. As a riverine and agricultural country, traditionally, more than 70 percent of rural people are dependent on agriculture and aquaculture in Bangladesh. Forceful displacement of the vast population creates a significant threat to its economy. So technological advancements and modernization in a western manner will not be preferable for such a nature-dependent country.
- The study of a country’s geographic settings is a crucial phase in a particular country’s policymaking process. The developmental projects, especially like the Rampal Power Plant and Ruppur Nuclear Power, never suit Bangladesh’s geographic setting and implementation capability. They are instead triggering the preexisting problems by displacing more populations and harming the ecological settings.
- In Bangladesh, people live in an environment where economic production and profit are entirely intertwined with the ecosystem. Consequently, the country’s development ultimately depends on its environmental condition—the displacement and uncertainty of a large portion of the population lag behind its actual growth and prosperity.
The author illustrates the background scenario of some of Bangladesh’s highly funded developmental projects. The scenario is full of sorrows of extreme poverty, lack of right even to live, and displacement. This is all how natural, and human-made disasters are formulating an influential but neglected identity, “ecological refugeehood.”