Climate Migration: Flooding forces Bangladesh family to flee

Aug 17, 2022, 8:22 AM | Updated: Aug 23, 2022, 3:46 am
Mohammad Jewel and Arzu Begum have a meal in their home with their son Arman in the poor Mirpur are...

Mohammad Jewel and Arzu Begum have a meal in their home with their son Arman in the poor Mirpur area of Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 24, 2022. Jewel and Begum were forced to flee Ramdaspur village in Bangladesh last year when the Meghna River flooded and destroyed their home. The couple and their four sons moved to the capital, Dhaka, where they struggle to pay their rent and food bills on their small incomes. (AP Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu)

(AP Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu)

BHOLA, Bangladesh (AP) — When the Mehgna River swallowed Mohammad Jewel and Arzu Begum’s tin-roofed family home overnight in southern Bangladesh just over a year ago they had no choice but to leave their ancestral village.

The couple fled the next morning with their four young boys to the capital, Dhaka, over a hundred kilometers (62 miles) away from their home in Ramdaspur village in the Bhola district, one of the hardest-hit coastal areas where many villagers regularly lose their houses and land to rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal.

“We have grown up seeing the river, we live on the river by catching fish. But now it has taken everything from us,” Jewel said.

“My heart aches when I think of my village, my ancestors, my old days. I had no choice but to leave my birthplace.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series exploring the lives of people around the world who have been forced to move because of rising seas, drought, searing temperatures and other things caused or exacerbated by climate change.


The mighty rivers that run through Bangladesh, such as the Mehgna, originate in the Himalayas or in Tibet, and run through northern and northeastern regions of the country before flowing down to the sea in the south. More than 130 rivers criss-cross through the low-lying nation, some of them prone to severe flooding.

Experts say climate change is causing erratic weather conditions in the country, resulting in a rapid collapse of riverbanks and the destruction of village after village. During the monsoon season, which runs from June to October, many rivers change course, devouring markets, schools, mosques and homes near their banks.

Millions are at risk of being displaced and becoming “climate refugees” because of sea level rise, river erosion, cyclonic storms and salty water creeping inland, scientists say. Bangladesh is expected to have about a third of South Asia’s internal climate refugees by 2050, according to a World Bank report published last year.

When Jewel and Begum visited their family’s old home in Ramdaspur a year later, even more homes were washed away, the river surging through new lands. Jewel said the river never felt that close by as a child, but it inched nearer every year.

“By the time we grew up, all the land and houses were destroyed by the river. The place we are standing now will also be eroded in the river in a few days,” he added, just feet away from their old family home.

He said the village was once brimming with small shops and tea stalls, markets and green spaces. The land was fertile. But over the years, people were forced to abandon their homes. He estimates that no more than 500 people now live in the once 2,000-strong village.

Walking through the remnants of their former community, his wife Arzu Begum also feels pain, even though the abundant water in recent years made life difficult for the family.

“I raised my youngest child by tying his legs with a rope attached to the door of my house because of the fear of drowning. During the tide the house got filled with water and my youngest child always moved toward water,” remembers Begum.

“All these got destroyed in the river erosion and people got scattered,” she said, pointing to the homes of friends and neighbors.

“Some are living on raised platforms, some in rented homes, some in makeshift shelters at the side of dams and so on. I moved to Dhaka. We lived in a large community. Now all you can see is the river and nobody living there.

“We have become homeless,” she said.

It’s estimated that more than 2,000 migrants arrive in the capital Dhaka every day, with many fleeing coastal towns.

In the northern part of Bangladesh’s capital, officials are building shelters for climate migrants and improving the water supply, but Jewel and Begum’s family are one of many unable to benefit from these projects. Officials also are working with smaller cities to be designated “climate havens” that welcome migrants.

Experts say that limiting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the high-emitting nations like the U.S., China and India, will help limit more drastic weather events around the world.

Now in Dhaka’s poor Mirpur area, living in a one-room hut raised over a swamp, Begum and Jewel may be away from the swelling Mehgna, but say they can’t adjust to the difficult city life.

“We had a place of our own and didn’t have to pay any rent. Our monthly income was sufficient to run our family,” recalled Begum, referring to their life back in Ramdaspur.

“Now we are forced to pay home rent and spend such an amount of money for food that what we earn isn’t enough for the family,” she said.

Her husband earns 12,000 takas ($136) a month by doing a “dirty job” going door-to-door and sorting household waste while Begum earns another 4,000 takas ($45) as a cleaner for two different houses. Her income pays the family’s rent and Jewel’s barely covers the rest of the family’s outgoings.

Jewel, who used to catch fish in his village, says they lived there joyfully and thought of giving a better life to their children.

“I had a plan to raise my children properly, to send them to school. But now, everything is so uncertain that I don’t know how we would survive. My children are growing up but I cannot take care of them,” he said.

“My job is very dirty, I don’t feel good sorting out all the nasty stuff I collect from households in my wealthy neighborhood,” he added.

“I hate my job. But when I think how can I survive without a job, I stay calm. Life is not easy.”


Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Prisons chief killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — The prisons chief in Indian-controlled Kashmir has been killed, officials said Tuesday, as India’s powerful home minister arrived in the disputed Himalayan region on a three-day visit. The body of Director-General of Prisons Hemant Kumar Lohia bore multiple wounds and was found Monday night at his friend’s home in the southern […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2015 file photo German chancellor Angela Merkel poses for a selfie with a r...
Associated Press

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday it’s giving its highest award to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her efforts to welcome more than 1 million refugees — mostly from Syria — into Germany, despite some criticism both at home and abroad. Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, […]
1 day ago
This picture released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2...
Associated Press

Iran says it launched test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits. State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry. Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

21 mountaineers missing after avalanche in northern India

NEW DELHI (AP) — At least 21 trainee mountaineers were reported missing after getting trapped in an avalanche in northern India, officials said Tuesday. A group of 29 people was hit by an avalanche on a mountain peak located in the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas on Tuesday morning, said Uttarakhand state police chief […]
1 day ago
FILE - A Goodwill store sign is shown in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Goodwill Industr...
Associated Press

Iconic Goodwill gets serious with online for thrifters

NEW YORK (AP) — Thrifters who flock to Goodwill stores will now be able to do some serious treasure hunting online as well. The Goodwill Industries International Inc., the 120-year-old non-profit organization that operates 3,300 stores in the U.S., and Canada, has launched an online business as part of a newly incorporated venture called GoodwillFinds. […]
1 day ago
A man walks in front of gate at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022....
Associated Press

Indonesia police: Stadium exit gates too small for escape

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said Tuesday that the gates at the soccer stadium where police fired tear gas and set off a deadly crush were too small and could only accommodate two at a time when hundreds were trying to escape. Photos from the Malang stadium where 125 people died and hundreds were […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Climate Migration: Flooding forces Bangladesh family to flee