Deadly Monsoon Rains Have Displaced a Million People—and They’re Not Letting Up

Homes and fields inundated with water on June 16. 2018.
Homes and fields inundated with water on June 16. 2018.
Photo: AP

The monsoon season can be a matter of life and death for people in South Asia. On the one hand, its rains nourish crops that feed millions. On the other, floods and landslides can create deadly hazards, as evidenced by what’s going on in northeast India and Bangladesh right now.

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Over the weekend, heavy rains flooded the Brahmaputra river, which flows through the Himalayas to make its way into India and Bangladesh. More than a million people are without homes as of Tuesday, Reuters reports. Nearly 20 people have died in the Indian states of Assam, Tripura, and Manipur. In Bangladesh, more than 10 people are dead.

Entire villages are facing displacement, and the rain’s not stopping. Helicopters are on standby, according to the water resource minister for Assam.

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In the path of destruction also lie Rohingya refugee camps, where people who’ve fled Myanmar to safely practice Islam and, well, live have been living for the past 11 months. Oxfam confirmed Tuesday that 130 landslides have affected 28,000 refugees at these camps in southern Bangladesh. Landslides or ferocious winds easily tear down the tarp-covered bamboo structures the refugees live in. Women are most at risk, reports Oxfam.

A women-only Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
A women-only Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Photo: Getty

“Most of the refugees come from small villages where they know how to deal with extreme weather, but now they are living in a huge tent city, disoriented and scared,” said Gabriela Luz-Meillet, Oxfam’s humanitarian program coordinator in Bangladesh, in a press release. “They are telling us that they lack the knowledge and resources to survive in this strange new environment. Women are in greater danger than men. They are frequently confined to their homes and do not know how to find shelter or to get help.”

Every year, this region is prone to disaster. Last year, more than 1,000 people died as a result of floods during monsoon season. These numbers won’t cease—especially in the age where climate change is fueling heavier rainfall. Globally, tens of millions of lives may be at risk due to river flooding in the future, a study out earlier this year concluded. The situation’s the worst for Asian countries.

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The lives lost this week remind us in the Global North how extreme weather threatens those in the Global South. While we’re the ones who have historically consumed the shit out of fossil fuels, people in places like India and Bangladesh are the ones left to bury their dead because of it. 

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

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The silver lining to all this rain is helping the groundwater recharge. This part of India has been mining or pumping groundwater faster than mother nature can replenish it. On the other hand, a lighter long lasting rain would be better for that.

For a country we should be feeling more sorry for, India seems to be catching up to the other countries living in the northern hemisphere as far as contributing to global emissions. India greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning are growing the fastest as shown in lime green below.

Talk about a success story, China is not only the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases as of 2005, it recently become the biggest historical contributor. This can be done by integrating under all the curves below. So it’s India’s neighbor to the north who’s fucking ‘em over.