Understanding climate change and displacement issues in South Asia | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:39 AM, January 21, 2020

Book Review

Understanding climate change and displacement issues in South Asia

Climate change-induced challenges have been slowly but gradually grappling South Asia through tentacles of heatwaves, droughts and floods. The symptoms of such vulnerabilities are exposed through displacement and migration incidents. Nevertheless, the issue has not been raised in apt manner across the region.

In this respect, Dr. Stellina Jolly and Dr. Nafees Ahmad in ‘Climate Refugees in South Asia: Protection under Int’l Legal Standards and State Practices in South Asia’ contribute something of a novelty in legal literature on South Asian and climate change-induced displacement. Both authors endeavor to disentangle the knots of problems that South Asia is facing with regard to climate change. Under the rubric of seven chapters, the book seeks to offer an appraisal of climate refugee issues in the region and to discuss the national, regional and international legal aspects of the issue.

The first chapter gives conceptual background on the issues of climate change and its nexus with climate displacement. The second chapter examines the fundamental debate of whether and how far climate change acts as a factor of migration in South Asia. Chapter three sifts through the issue of climate-induced displacement from human rights dimension and discusses whether rights violated during climate migration are issues of human rights. Chapter four addresses the extent of protection granted to climate change-induced people under the international environmental law international refugee law and human rights law. The chapter further highlights the pitfalls in the relevant legal regimes.

Chapter five depicts a bleak picture of non-compliance with international refugee law and environmental conventions in South Asian countries. Chapter six analyses the position of the judiciary in South Asian jurisdictions concerning the incorporation of international law, especially in the fields of climate change and refugee law. It also examines the judicial interactions on climate refugee crisis by evaluating the judicial appraisal and responses to the refugee law and international climate change law in the South Asian countries. In the concluding chapter, the significance of regional solutions on climate-induced refugee protection has been argued and from that point of view, the role of SAARC has been appraised. The chapter emphasises the need to adopt inclusive, participatory and shared legal approach in countering the climate change-induced crises.

As this book reveals, the countries of the region have been quick to catch up with the concept of ‘climate change’, but has failed to formulate any apt legal framework that would be better suited to tackle the impacts of climate change (i.e., displacement, refugee crisis, impediment to development rights and right to health). Though the book is about climate change-induced displacement in the context of South Asia, it is of relevance to other climate change affected nations in Asia and Pacific as well.

The commentaries of the authors are quite straight-forward and dissects the national and regional legal policy framework of the region. This has enabled the book to provide more nuanced observations on climate change displacement in the region. Furthermore, it addresses whether the mere incorporation of international legal rules to the domestic laws of the countries is sufficient to deal with climate crisis.

Overall, the book provides valuable insights and is a resourceful and comprehensive work on climate change and displacement issues. The book is a handy research companion for researchers and students of international law and international relations who would like to delve into climate change issues in South Asia.


The writer is Teaching Assistant, Texas Tech University, USA.


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