Human Migration and Environment Conference

Street scene in India

Street scene in India

On the 28th June to 1st July, members from DECCMA’s Work Package 3 participated in a conference run by the University of Durham titled Human Migration and the Environment: Futures, Politics, Invention.

Helen Adams led a session on ‘Promoting Successful Migration in Deltas: Ecosystem services, Risk and (Im)mobility’ examining migration under environmental change with a specific focus on deltas in Africa and Asia.

  • Dr Mohammad Nadiruzzaman (University of Exeter, Espa Deltas project) presented on ecosystem services in Bangladesh and the role of place attachment and livelihood patterns on migration responses following Cyclone Sidr.
  • Sara Vigil and Caroline Zickgraf (University of Liege, Helix project) presented findings on migration in the Senegal delta with a particular focus on fishing communities and trapped populations.
  • Using Cyclone Mahasen in Banglandesh as a case study, Dr David Wrathall (UNU-EHS, MDEEP project) demonstrated the value of mobile network data as an approach to monitor and assess behavioural responses of communities affected by natural disaster.
  • Olivia Dun (University of Wollongong) presented findings from a case study in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam to demonstrate how a village’s transition to shrimp farming led to salinization, subsequent out-migration, and an overall decline in community wellbeing and resilience.

The session was well attended by approximately 30 delegates. Questions posed by attendees demonstrated a strong interest in examining deltas as systems with unique environmental challenges and migration responses.

The presentations highlighted that there are certain land use and livelihood patterns common to deltas. Rapid change in land use from agriculture to shrimp is common to both the Bangladesh and Mekong delta. Artisanal fisheries and occupational immobility are common to both the Bangladesh and Senegal delta. There is reason to hypothesize, therefore, that there are broad patterns of migration that may be more consistent with deltaic systems.

However, the presentations highlighted the range of ways that migration is used to support human wellbeing in deltas. For example, in the Mekong, out migration was a result of development of shrimp aquaculture. However, in the Senegal delta there were examples of immobility and reluctance to move even for improved livelihoods. In the case of Cyclone Mahasen, migration patterns during the cyclone could be subsumed into broader patterns – there was not a cyclone-specific flow.

Overall, conference discussions showed a growing awareness within the migration and climate change research community of the influence researchers have in shaping public discourse. The example of ‘climate refugees’ as having provoked alarmism was one example provided that demonstrates the need for researchers to be careful in how we frame discussions to avoid perverse outcomes.

The conference was a valuable opportunity to build the profile of DECCMA’s research, learn from other research happening in the field, and to expand on our existing networks. Further information on the conference can be found here:
http://www.durhamconference.eu/

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