Environment creating more refugees than war

Environmental disasters and the changing climate are now displacing more people than all the world's wars combined - and it is time to stop ignoring the problem.

This was the message of Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) in the run up to World Refugee Day on June 20.

Desertification, water shortages, prolonged droughts, failing farmland and floods are all pushing up the levels of migration and are, in extreme cases, sparking conflicts of their own.

Those in the developing countries of the south are shouldering the lion’s share of the burden.

Climate refugees, like the problems posed by the ongoing population explosion, are an often-ignored part of the environmental puzzle and CIWEM argues that it is time to take a more active stance on the issue.

Paul Horton, the organisation’s director of international development, said: “We need to put health at the heart of this matter, with the wellbeing of populations becoming the defining measure of the impact of climate change and our efforts to address it effectively.

“Movement on this scale has the potential to destabilise whole regions where increasingly desperate populations compete for dwindling food and water. It is our common responsibility to act now to address these issues. Environmental refugees already exist and we cannot wait until the day that the current trickle becomes a flood.”

The Institution recommends an international agreement on the management of environmental refugees which defines this new type of refugee within international frameworks. This includes those forced from their homes to make room for development projects such as dams and roads.

Sam Bond

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