Migration and Environmental Change in Asia

Part of the Global Migration Issues book series (IOMS, volume 2)


Increasingly it is becoming clear that major changes in Asia have implications for global environmental, social and economic systems. Together, environmental change across Asia and increasing internal and international migration already present challenges that are straining the management capacities of nation-states. Future climate change will exacerbate these challenges, as indicated here in the context of likely key regions that are projected to face major change. The chapter synthesises the current academic debate on how such environmental change will influence human migration for Asia. Many millions of people will be highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and many more people are moving into harm’s way as Asian urban development concentrates in vulnerable areas such as river valleys, deltas and coastal zones. Case studies of potential linear and non-linear changes to future migration due to climate change are presented from sub-regions of Asia. As Asian countries, and particularly those with large, poor populations, experience significant environmental change, people will adapt in situ, but increasingly, policy responses will need to look to support ex situ climate change adaptation that involves the movement of people, systems and/or assets from places of high vulnerability. Such a change in orientation would have significant, non-linear impacts for the many already highly complex migration patterns and networks within and from Asia.


  1. ADB (Asian Development Bank). (2012a). Addressing climate change and migration in Asia and the Pacific. Manila: ADB.Google Scholar
  2. ADB (Asian Development Bank). (2012b). Asian development outlook 2012: Confronting rising inequality in Asia. Manila: ADB.Google Scholar
  3. Adger, W. N., Arnell, N. W., & Tompkins, E. L. (2005). Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Global Environmental Change, 15, 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. AidWatch. (2006). UN Office of the special envoy for tsunami recovery. http://reliefweb.int/organization/un-special-envoy-tsunami-recovery. Accessed 24 Apr 2012.
  5. Alam, S. (2003). Environmentally induced migration from Bangladesh to India. Strategic Analysis, 27, 422–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bardsley, D. K., & Hugo, G. J. (2010). Migration and climate change: Examining thresholds of change to guide effective adaptation decision-making. Population and Environment, 32, 238–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bardsley, D. K., & Rogers, G. P. (2011). Prioritizing engagement for sustainable adaptation to climate change: An example from natural resource management in South Australia. Society and Natural Resources, 24, 1–17.Google Scholar
  8. Barnett, J., & Campbell, J. (2010). Climate change and small island states: Power, knowledge and the South Pacific. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Barnett, J., & Webber, M. (2009). Accommodating migration to promote adaptation to climate change. A policy brief prepared for the Secretariat of the Swedish Commission on Climate Change and Development and the World Bank Report 2010 Team.Google Scholar
  10. Begum, A. (1999). Destination Dhaka: Urban migration: Expectations and reality. Dhaka: The University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Betsill, M., & Bulkeley, H. (2007). Looking back and thinking ahead: A decade of cities and climate change research. Local Environment, 12, 447–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bohra-Mishra, P., & Massey, D. S. (2011). Environmental degradation and out-migration: New evidence from Nepal. In E. Piguet, A. Pécoud, & P. de Guchteneire (Eds.), Migration and climate change (pp. 74–101). Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  13. Buckley, P. J., Clegg, L. J., Cross, A. R., Liu, X., Voss, H., & Zheng, P. (2007). The determinants of Chinese outward foreign direct investment. Journal of International Business Studies, 38, 499–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. CEDEM (Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies). (2008a). China “Forced Migration and the Three-Gorges Dam”. Case study report for the EACH-FOR project. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).Google Scholar
  15. CEDEM (Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies). (2008b). Environmental Change and Forced Migration (EACH-FOR) scenarios – General overview study NIS and Central Asia. Brussels: Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies (CEDEM) for European Commission.Google Scholar
  16. Cernea, M. M. (1990). Internal refugee flows and development-induced population displacement. Journal of Refugee Studies, 3, 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cernea, M., & McDowell, C. (2000). Risks and reconstruction, experiences of resettlers and refugees. Oxford: Berghahn Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chen, M., Xu, C., & Wang, R. (2007). Key natural impacting factors of China’s human population distribution. Population and Environment, 28, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cruz, R. V., Harasawa, H., Lal, M., Wu, S., Anokhin, Y., Punsalmaa, B., et al. (2007). Asia climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In M. L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden, & C. E. Hanson (Eds.), Contribution of Working Group II to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (pp. 469–506). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Datta, P. (2004). Push-pull factors of undocumented migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal: A perception study. The Qualitative Report, 9, 335–358.Google Scholar
  21. Dilley, M., Chen, R. S., Deichmann, U., Lerner-Lam, A. L., & Arnold, M. (2005). Natural disaster hotspots: A global risk analysis. Washington, DC: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dun, O. (2011). Migration and displacement triggered by floods in the Mekong delta. International Migration, 49, e200–e223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ericson, J. P., Vörösmarty, C. J., Dingman, S. L., Ward, L. G., & Meybeck, M. (2006). Effective sea-level rise and deltas: Causes of change and human dimension implications. Global and Planetary Change, 50, 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Findlay, A., & Geddes, A. (2011). Critical views on the relationship between climate change and migration: Some insights from the experience of Bangladesh. In E. Piguet, A. Pécoud, & P. de Guchteneire (Eds.), Migration and climate change (pp. 138–159). Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  25. Foresight. (2011). Foresight: Migration and global environmental change, future challenges and opportunities (Final project report). London: The Government Office for Science.Google Scholar
  26. Glantz, M. H. (2004). Creeping environmental problems and sustainable development in the Aral Sea basin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Gornall, J., Betts, R., Burke, E., Clark, R., Camp, J., Willett, K., et al. (2010). Implications of climate change for agricultural productivity in the early twenty-first century. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 365, 2973–2989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gray, C. L., & Mueller, V. (2012). Natural disasters and population mobility in Bangladesh. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109, 6000–6005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hai-Lun, Z., & Kang, W. (2001). Flood control and management for large rivers in China: A case study from the Huaihe River Basin. http://www.unescap.org/esd/water/disaster/2001/china.doc. Accessed 22 Apr 2009.
  30. Hanjra, M. A., & Qureshi, M. E. (2010). Global water crisis and future food security in an era of climate change. Food Policy, 35, 365–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Haque, S. (2005). Migration trends and patterns in South Asia and management approaches and initiatives. Asia-Pacific Population Journal, 20, 39–60.Google Scholar
  32. Harvey, N. (2006). Global change and integrated coastal management: The Asia-Pacific region. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hossain, S. (2005). Poverty, household strategies and coping with urban life: Examining ‘livelihood framework’ in Dhaka city, Bangladesh. Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology, 2, 45–52.Google Scholar
  34. Hugo, G. J. (1996). Environmental concerns and international migration. International Migration Review, 30, 105–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hugo, G. J. (2002). Pengungsi – Indonesia’s internally displaced persons. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 11, 297–331.Google Scholar
  36. Hugo, G. J. (2010). Climate change induced mobility and the existing migration regime in Asia and the Pacific. In J. McAdam (Ed.), Climate change and displacement: Multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 9–36). Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. Hugo, G. (2011). Future demographic change and its interactions with migration and climate change. Global Environmental Change, 21, S21–S33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hugo, G., Bardsley, D. K., Tan, Y., Sharma, V., Williams, M., Bedford, R. (2009). Climate change and migration in the Asia-Pacific region (Final report to the Asian Development Bank). Manila: Asian Development Bank.Google Scholar
  39. IMF (International Monetary Fund). (2012). World economic outlook: Growth resuming, dangers remain. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. IOM (International Organization for Migration). (2010). Assessing the evidence: Environment, climate change and migration in Bangladesh. Bangladesh: IOM.Google Scholar
  41. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Field, C. B., Barros, V., Stocker, T. F., Qin, D., Dokken, D. J., et al. (Eds.). (2012). Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. A special report of Working Groups I and II of the IPCC. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Janes, C. R. (2010). Failed development and vulnerability to climate change in central Asia: Implications for food security and health. Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, 22, 236S–245S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Karim, M. F., & Mimura, N. (2008). Impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on cyclonic storm surge floods in Bangladesh. Global Environmental Change, 18, 490–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Khakimov, P., & Mahmadbekov, M. (2009). Republic of Tajikistan: EACH-FOR case study report. Brussels: Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies (CEDEM) for European Commission.Google Scholar
  45. Lein, H. (2000). Hazards and ‘forced’ migration in Bangladesh. Norwegian Journal of Geography, 54, 122–127.Google Scholar
  46. Lewicka, M. (2011). Place attachment: How far have we come in the last 40 years? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 207–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lin, W., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2010). Questioning the ‘field in motion’: Emerging concepts, research practices and the geographical imagination in Asian migration studies. Cultural Geographies, 18, 125–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mailisha. (2004). Ethnic minority immigrants under the Western Region Development: A report from the Sunan Yugur autonomous region. Inner Asia, 6, 111–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Martin, P. (2008). Another Miracle? Managing Labour Migration in Asia. Paper presented at United Nations Expert Group Meeting on International Migration and Development in Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asis and the Pacific, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Bangkok, Thiland, 20–21 September.Google Scholar
  50. Massey, D. S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Pellegrino, A., & Taylor, J. E. (1993). Theories of international migration: A review and appraisal. Population and Development Review, 19, 431–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. McAdam, J. (2010). Climate change induced mobility and the existing migration regime in Asia and the Pacific. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  52. McGranahan, G., Balk, D., & Anderson, B. (2007). The rising tide: Assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation coastal zones. Environment and Urbanization, 19, 17–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McLeman, R. A. (2011). Settlement abandonment in the context of global environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 21S, S108–S120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McLeman, R., & Smit, B. (2006). Migration as an adaptation to climate change. Climatic Change, 76, 31–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Meehl, G. A., Stocker, T. F., Collins, W. D., Friedlingstein, P., Gaye, A. T., Gregory, J. M., et al. (2007). Global climate projections. In S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor, & H. L. Miller (Eds.), Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Mikhailov, V. N., & Dotsenko, M. A. (2006). Peculiarities of the hydrological regime of the Ganges and Brahmaputra river mouth area. Water Resources, 33, 353–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mimura, N. (2008). Asia-Pacific coasts and their management: States of environment. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ministry for Nature Protection. (2002). The first national Communication of the Republic of Tajikistan to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Dushanbe: Ministry for Nature Protection.Google Scholar
  59. Mirza, M. M. Q. (2011). Climate change, flooding in South Asia and implications. Regional Environmental Change, 11, 95–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Naik, A., Stigter, E., & Laczko, F. (2007). Migration, development and natural disasters: Insights from the Indian Ocean tsunami. Geneva: International Organisation for Migration.Google Scholar
  61. Nasreen, M., Hossain, K. M., & Kundu, D. K. (2006). The interrelationship between poverty, environment and sustainable development. Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology, 3, 59–79.Google Scholar
  62. Nelson, G. C., Rosegrant, M. W., Koo, J., Robertson, R., Sulser, T., Zhu, T., et al. (2009). Climate change: Impact on agriculture and costs of adaptation. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar
  63. Paul, B. K. (2005). Evidence against disaster-induced migration: The 2004 tornado in north-central Bangladesh. Disasters, 4, 370–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Perch-Nielsen, S. L., Bättig, M. B., & Imboden, D. (2008). Exploring the link between climate change and migration. Climatic Change, 91, 375–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pilarczyk, K. W., & Nuoi, N. S. (2005). Experience and practices on flood control in Vietnam. Water International, 30, 114–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Preston, B. L., Suppiah, R., Macadam, I., & Bathols, J. (2006). Climate change in the Asia/Pacific region: A consultancy report prepared for the climate change and development roundtable. Canberra: Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO).Google Scholar
  67. Reuveny, R. (2007). Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict. Political Geography, 26, 656–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Revi, A. (2008). Climate change risk: An adaptation and mitigation agenda for Indian cities. Environment and Urbanization, 20, 207–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ringler, C., Bryan, E., Biswas, A. K., & Cline, S. A. (2010). Water and food security under global change. In C. Ringler, A. K. Biswas, & S. A. Cline (Eds.), Global change: Impacts on water and food security (pp. 3–15). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Rodell, M., Velicogna, I., & Famiglietti, J. (2009). Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India. Nature, 460, 999–1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Roy, M. (2009). Planning for sustainable urbanisation in fast growing cities: Mitigation and adaptation issues addressed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Habitat International, 33, 276–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schewe, J., Levermann, A., & Meinshausen, M. (2011). Climate change under a scenario near 1.5°C of global warming: Monsoon intensification, ocean warming and steric sea level rise. Earth Systems Dynamics, 2, 25–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Seto, K. C. (2011). Exploring the dynamics of migration to mega-delta cities in Asia and Africa: Contemporary drivers and future scenarios. Global Environmental Change, 21, S94–S107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shamim, C. (2008). Alternative views of environmental security in a less developed country: The case of Bangladesh. Journal of Third World Studies, 25, 253–272.Google Scholar
  75. Shi, G. Q., Zhou, J., & Li, J. Y. (2007). Protection of rights and interests and government’s responsibilities: A case study of the Tarim River ecological migration as an example. Jilin University Journal Social Sciences Edition, 47, 78–86.Google Scholar
  76. Skeldon, R. (2003). Migration and Migration Policy in Asia: A Synthesis of Selected Cases. Regionla Conference on Migration, Development and Pro-poor policy Choices in Asis, Dhaka.Google Scholar
  77. Stringer, L. C. (2008). From global environmental discourse to local adaptations and responses: A desertification research agenda for Central Asia. In R. Behnke (Ed.), The socio-economic causes and consequences of desertification in Central Asia (pp. 13–31). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tan, Y. (2008). Resettlement in the Three Gorges Project. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Tan, Y., & Guo, F. (2007, May 26–29). Environmental concerns and population displacement in west China. Paper presented at the 8th APMRN conference, Fuzhou, China.Google Scholar
  80. UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). (2006). The state of the world’s refugees 2006: Human displacement in the new millennium. Geneva: UNHCR.Google Scholar
  81. United Nations. (2006, May 18). International migration and development, report of the Secretary-General. Sixtieth session: Globalisation and interdependence: International migration and development, United Nations.Google Scholar
  82. United Nations. (2008). World urbanization prospects: The 2007 revision. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  83. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). (1984). Third Asian and pacific population conference: Selected papers. Bangkok: ESCAP.Google Scholar
  84. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). (2011). 2011 ESCAP population data sheet. Bangkok: UNESCAP.Google Scholar
  85. Vecchi, G. A., & Soden, B. J. (2007). Effect of remote sea surface temperature change on tropical cyclone potential intensity. Nature, 450, 1066–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. von Storch, H., & Woth, K. (2008). Storm surges: Perspectives and options. Sustainability Science, 3, 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Vörösmarty, C. J., Green, P., Salibury, J., & Lammers, R. B. (2000). Global water resources: Vulnerability from climate change and population growth. Science, 289, 284–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wang, C., Yang, Y., & Zhang, Y. (2011). Economic development, rural livelihoods, and ecological restoration: Evidence from China. Ambio, 40, 78–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Warner, K., Dun, O., & Stal, M. (2008). Field observations and empirical research. Forced Migration Review, 31, 13–15.Google Scholar
  90. Webster, P. J., Holland, G. J., Curry, J. A., & Chang, H. R. (2005). Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science, 309, 1844–1846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. West China Development Leadership Office of the State Council (2005). Unordinary five years. Available on http://www.chinawest.gov.cn/web/NewsInfo.asp?NewsId=28366 (in Chinese).
  92. WFP (World Food Programme)/FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation). (2009). The state of food insecurity in the world economic crises – Impacts and lessons learned. Rome: FAO.Google Scholar
  93. World Bank. (2008). Migration and remittances factbook 2008. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  94. Xu, J., Grumbine, R. E., Shrestha, A., Eriksson, M., Yang, X., Wang, Y., et al. (2009). The melting Himalayas: Cascading effects of climate change on water, biodiversity, and livelihoods. Conservation Biology, 23, 520–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Ye, Y., Fang, X., Aftab, U., & Khan, M. (2012). Migration and reclamation in Northeast China in response to climatic disasters in North China over the past 300 years. Regional Environmental Change, 12, 193–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Yeh, E. T. (2009). Greening western China: A critical view. Geoforum, 40, 884–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Yeung, H. W. (2012). East Asian capitalisms and economic geographies. In T. J. Barnes, J. Pecj, & E. Sheppard (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell companion to economic geography (pp. 118–131). Chichester: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  98. Yin, S. (2006). The plight of internally displaced persons. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography, Environment and PopulationUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations