Climate change, vulnerability, and migration in Myanmar
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This thesis investigates the relationships between climate change, vulnerability, the environment, and livelihood practices within the Ayeyarwady Delta, and how those relationships influence rural to urban migration. Migrants in urban centers are then reviewed to examine issues surrounding access to employment, housing, and education for their children in Yangon’s Hlaingtharyar Township. Findings of this research demonstrate that both social and environmental variables comprise root causes, dynamic pressures, and unsafe conditions of vulnerability. Compounded with environmental hazards such as flooding, cyclones, rainfall, pests, and heat, vulnerable individuals are adversely impacted by climate change, which transitions environmental hazards into environmental disaster. Environmental disasters degrade and destroy livelihoods, exacerbating poverty. Communities employ adaptation strategies to confront environmental disasters, but worsening poverty and the increase in frequency and intensity of environmental disasters render current adaptation strategies insignificant to confront the effects of climate change. Thus, more individuals migrate away from rural areas as an adaptation strategy to confront the impacts climate change. The findings demonstrate that poverty is the root cause of vulnerability in the Ayeyarwady Delta, while climate change acts as the trigger event to spawn migration of individuals in poverty. The prospect of economic opportunities in urban centers pull migrants to Myanmar’s cities. Migrants are able to access employment, although often in marginalized and exploitative industries. In parallel with employment challenges, housing and access to education for children prove degrading and inaccessible for many migrants in urban centers. Findings from this thesis determine that associated financial and social costs for migrants in urban centers do not deem their lives improved, but rather hardship compounds in alternate ways than in rural settings. The phenomena of climate change, vulnerability, and migration produces the term ‘climate-induced economic migrants’ to encapsulate the form of migration identified in this research. To better recognize and protect climate-induced economic migrants, both national and international policy makers must acknowledge how climate change and poverty compound to drive migration. Climate-induced economic migrants will continue to migrate away from rural areas into urban centers to evade environmental disaster and their associated impacts. The purpose of migration is to seek improved economic wellbeing.