Migration and the environment

Authored by: Rebecca Elmhirst

Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415625210
eBook ISBN: 9781315474892
Adobe ISBN: 9781315474885


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Recent debates about the impact of climate change in Southeast Asia and beyond have refocused attention on the linkages between the environment and migration in the region. ‘Environmental migration’ is becoming a key theme in the climate change research agenda, following pronouncements that future environmental change will lead to mass displacement of populations from locations vulnerable to climate change effects (Myers, 2002; Stern, 2007). In Southeast Asia, the region’s heavily populated deltas and other low-lying coastal areas are identified as particular ‘hot spots’, taking in low-lying metropolitan regions such as Bangkok, metro Manila, Jakarta and its neighbouring cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (Asian Development Bank, 2011; Bardsley and Hugo, 2010; McGranahan et al., 2007; Fuchs et al., 2011; World Bank, 2010). Drawing the link between environment and migration by focusing on mass displacement in this way tends to view migration in largely negative terms, seeing mobility as a failure of adaptation to a changing environment. In common with other sedentarist approaches to governance in Southeast Asia, both transborder and internal population mobility is framed as a security issue (Bardsley and Hugo, 2010; see also De Koninck, 2000; Scott, 2009). As this framing is translated into policy, it runs the risk of creating new forms of vulnerability, as strong measures to regulate and limit population movement serve to undermine livelihoods in very specific and frequently unjust ways (Tacoli, 2009; Black et al., 2011).

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