Jo Khinmaung-Moore, Tearfund’s Senior Policy Adviser on climate change and energy explains what’s happening in the flood-hit areas, why the flooding is so bad this time and how Tearfund (and you) can make a long-term difference.
How bad are the floods?
The current floods are the worst in decades and are happening across a larger area than tends to be affected during the monsoon. As of 31 August an estimated 41 million people have been affected.
How has this flooding occurred?
Heavy monsoon rains have triggered severe flooding across Bangladesh, Nepal and India. Rainwater from the Himalayas is travelling down through Nepal’s lower lying areas, through swollen rivers in north-east India and eventually through the floodplains of Bangladesh to the sea.
Monsoon rains are normal for South Asia at this time of year, but the scale of flooding this time is much worse. Usually water would fill up rivers and then overflow onto the floodplains. This year, water has not been able to flow away and drain as it would normally.
People’s homes are submerged in water and they are having to leave their villages in search of dry ground. Some villages have been cut off by the rising waters, leaving people stranded.
Has climate change made this worse?
We can’t say if this specific flooding is directly caused by climate change. However there is a clear relationship between climate change and severe, erratic weather patterns like the ones we are seeing here and in Texas at present. This is the fourth flooding in Bangladesh this year, and the floods are bigger and more intense than in previous decades.
It’s a huge injustice that the poorest communities suffer the most from climate change, when they’ve contributed the least to the problem.
Are there any other human factors at play?
Poverty is key. It means that people are more vulnerable when flooding hits and disaster strikes – particularly as so many are almost wholly reliant on the land for their livelihoods. Poverty reduces their options and it forces them to live in and grow food in riskier areas. Below standard drainage, some deforestation and poor infrastructure planning, are also compounding the situation.