Print Edition - 2015-05-29 | Oped
- Remittances can form a safety net for households vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters
May 28, 2015-Despite the trauma and tragedy associated with a disaster, it can provide society with an opportunity to reflect upon its collective strengths and weaknesses and work together for a better future. It fosters a flurry of discussion on issues, which would otherwise be lost in the din of short-term priorities, the hustle of everyday life, and electoral cycles.
The impact of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25 will continue to be felt across the mid-hills of eastern and central Nepal for months to come. In addition to over 8,000 causalities, over 20,000 have been injured, and millions have been left without shelter or a reliable supply of food and water. Similarly, the issue of relocating internally-displaced earthquake victims to safe and secure places is coming to the forefront.
As rescue and relief measures are brought to a close, wide-scale reconstruction efforts have begun in the most affected districts. Through this process, billions of rupees will be invested to reconstruct houses, roads, and infrastructure, re-open schools and hospitals, and provide public amenities and services in far-flung areas. These reconstruction efforts must be aligned with the ongoing disaster risk management and adaptation processes in Nepal, and the process of post-earthquake reconstruction could even act as a vehicle to carry the disaster risk reduction and adaptation processes to the community and household levels.
In the Himalayan region, natural disasters are a critical part of any discussion on adaptation. Over the past few years in Nepal, there were floods in the mid-western Tarai, a rainfall-induced landslide that dammed the Sunkoshi River in Sindhupalchok, and a cloudburst-induced flood in Darchula. These disasters have cost human lives, destroyed standing crops, displaced many families, and caused widespread damage to infrastructure and property.
Climate change is already contributing to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, as well as to a rise in the frequency and severity of extreme events. However, recent studies in Nepal indicate that the impacts of climate change are not uniform across the country. Warming is more pronounced at higher altitudes, compared to the Tarai and the Siwaliks. There has been a general decline in monsoon precipitation in mid-western and south-western Nepal, with declining rainfall in a few pockets of the central and eastern regions, while in the rest of the country, monsoon precipitation has generally increased.
Nepal is a largely agrarian economy, which makes it highly sensitive to changes in climate and natural resource availability. Climate change increases the level of risk to life, property, and infrastructure, transportation and communication, and livelihoods, particularly among the marginalised and poor people. It also threatens the effectiveness and success of development initiatives across Nepal. Therefore, effective adaptation measures are required to counter the negative impacts of climate change and variability. A number of programmes and projects had been implemented or are currently being implemented in that respect, including the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) and Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPA).
Value of migrants
Changes in the environment and climate can also impact patterns of human mobility. The meeting of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima in 2014 emphasised climate change as a key driver of population mobility and displacement—a complex phenomena that can rarely be explained by a single reason. However, labour migration helps families diversify livelihoods and build the adaptive capacity to address both known and unknown challenges, including climate change. As such, it is an important strategy for reducing vulnerability.
Similarly, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 recognised migrants as relevant community-level stakeholders in disaster risk reduction and requested local authorities to involve migrants in disaster risk management at the local level. The Sendai Framework also recognises the value of migrants’ knowledge, skills, and capacities in building community resilience.
Remittances can form a safety net for households vulnerable to the risks of climate variability and change. The capacity of people and groups to adapt to change, or to cope with disaster, depends on many factors, including their access to financial resources, information, education, healthcare, social resources, infrastructure, and technology. Migration can make a positive contribution to many of these. For example, remittances contribute to household income, fund basic needs, healthcare, education, and are a source of funds to invest in the construction of more resilient houses.
The gender dimension of migration is an important issue as women and men handle remittances differently, both on the sending and receiving ends. Evidence indicates that although women migrant workers are less informed about destination countries, are often confined to low-skilled jobs, and earn less than men on average, they send a higher proportion of their income home on a regular basis and for longer periods of time. In addition, when women have a higher degree of control over the use of remittances, remittances are more likely to fulfil nutritional, educational, and healthcare needs of household members, especially children.
Control over remittances could also play a key role in empowering women recipients. This could contribute to the promotion of gender equality by improving women’s decision-making capabilities, economic status, and inclusion within the labour market. This way, women can assume greater responsibilities and acquire new roles
as primary providers, obtaining more autonomy in the management of household resources.
Migration and adaptation
It is crucial that migration and remittances are mainstreamed into adaptation planning and practices in Nepal through evidence-based policies and programmes. This will help to maximise benefits from migration and reduce risks to migrant workers, their families, and their communities. This requires further research, capacity building, policy engagement, and coordination among national, regional, and international stakeholders.
In the recently concluded Nansen Initiative Regional Consultation under the theme ‘Climate Change, Disasters and Human Mobility in South Asia and the Indian Ocean’ in Khulna, Bangladesh, representatives from the governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, and Sri Lanka from the Nansen Initiative and from regional and international organisations discussed the role of human mobility in the context of natural disasters.
Efforts of organisations like the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod) to facilitate such collaborative forums are well-received and necessary to strengthen national, regional, and international collaboration on migration issues to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people in this region.
Mishra is a member of the National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal
Published: 29-05-2015 07:29