|Population||UN Population Division (as of 2016)|
|Number of IDPs (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Disasters)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|Refugees||UNHCR (as of 2016)|
|Displacement type||IDPs (Stock)|
|Geographical disaggregation||Admin 2 or more|
|Frequency of reporting||No update|
|Disaggregation on sex||No|
|Disaggregation on age||No|
|Data triangulation||No triangulation|
|Data on settlement elsewhere||No|
|Data on returns||No|
|Data on local integration||Partial|
|Data on deaths||No|
|Data on births||No|
This figure is based on decaying data related to two caseloads: displacement in the Chittagong Hills Tracts and displaced members of the Bihari community. IDMC’s research does not support removing these caseloads as no evidence suggests these IDPs have returned to their place of origin or achieved a durable solution.Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 58 KB)
During the 20th century, millions of people were displaced in Bangladesh. The key drivers of this displacement included the Partition in 1947, the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971 and internal armed conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts from 1973 to 1997. In other cases, people fled inter-communal violence or disasters brought on by natural hazards, or were forcibly evicted to make room for development projects.
In addition to recurrent floods resulting from cyclonic storms and monsoon rains, people in Bangladesh are among the most threatened by the effects of climate change. Other displacement risk factors include unresolved grievances related to conflicts and development projects, a rapid rate of urbanisation, high poverty levels, the degradation of natural resources and the increasing loss of agricultural and fishing productivity.
Bangladesh is one of the countries most heavily exposed and most vulnerable to disasters caused by natural hazards. It is the most densely populated country in the world, and much of its territory is a low-lying delta plain. As a result of frequent monsoon rains, many areas of the country are regularly submerged in water, displacing hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Data on file with IDMC shows that for the period 2008 to 2016, rapid-onset disasters mainly associated with floods and storms displaced an average of about 614,000 people per year. Bangladesh ranked 6th out of 171 countries in terms of fatalities and economic losses suffered due to extreme weather events between 1996 and 2015.
Bangladesh is the South Asian country that is most vulnerable to regular cyclones and floods, and these have become more frequent and severe in recent decades as a result of climate change, including sea level rise. A projected sea level rise of at least 80 centimetres is predicted to displace up to 30 million people by the year 2100. As the country is located in a seismically active high-risk region, the risk of an earthquake also looms.
Other factors, such as substandard housing, high dependency on agriculture, increasing salt water incursion, lower crop production, increasing landlessness, rapid urbanisation and the world’s lowest government capacity to adapt to climate change, persist in making the country highly vulnerable to natural hazards and to the longer-term effects of climate change, including displacement.
Displacement caused by conflict has also been significant. In 1971, the fight for independence from Pakistan internally displaced an estimated 20 million people, while another 10 million fled to India – perhaps the largest global displacement in the shortest amount of time. The new state was founded on a Bengali Muslim identity, neglecting and marginalising indigenous Bengali Hindus and non-Bengali Muslims.
Unrecognised in Bangladesh’s new constitution following independence in 1971, and with unanswered grievances following the displacement of 100,000 people from indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to make room for the Kaptai dam in the early 1960s, indigenous groups organised an armed insurgency. They demanded the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights, full regional autonomy and the relocation of all non-indigenous people to places outside the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
This situation, coupled with government appropriation of indigenous people’s land under the Vested Property Act and government settlement of an estimated 400,000 Bengalis on that land between 1979 and 1985, sparked and fuelled armed conflict in the region. Population transfers dramatically altered the region’s demographics and aggravated pre-existing issues related to resource scarcity. Up to 120,000 people were displaced internally, and 65,000 fled to India.
The conflict ended with a peace accord in 1997, and in 2016 the government approved the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act to resolve outstanding land conflicts. A taskforce on the rehabilitation of returnee refugees and internally displaced persons was established, but citizenship reform was a major impediment to resolving the situation of IDPs. More recently, inter-communal violence targeting indigenous and religious minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Buddhist communities has caused displacement.
Development projects also continue to displace people in Bangladesh. Between 1994 and 2004, infrastructure projects funded by international finance institutions and the government displaced an estimated 500,000 people. Between 2004 and 2013, the World Bank implemented 13 projects with confirmed or possible displacement in the country. Four of those projects displaced an estimated 84,408 people, while data on the remaining nine projects is not available. The three projects that caused the most displacement were a bridge project (73,329 people), a coastal embankment improvement project (6,325 people) and a power project (4,444 people).
Information on the patterns of movement, length of displacement, current locations and housing situations of IDPs in Bangladesh is scarce.
The movement of people displaced by disasters is hampered by road and rail closures because of flooding. Households have been supported with emergency shelters, mostly tarpaulins or canvases, but many displaced people take refuge on roofs, roads, embankments or in bamboo structures, or they take up residence in substandard and crowded informal settlements. An estimated 3.4 million people live in such settlements in Bangladesh, and up to 50 per cent of the residents are IDPs forced to abandon rural homes because of riverbank erosion and other natural hazards. Some have had to flee a number of times because the areas they relocated to suffered similar inundations.
Over several decades of conflict, people fled within the territory and to neighbouring areas that are now part of India, Pakistan and Myanmar. By the time the peace accord was signed in 1997, most of the refugees had returned to Bangladesh. Those who had been displaced by the conflict or had been living as refugees in India for a long time were not able to return to their land because it had often been handed over to others in their absence.
Many IDPs displaced by conflict remain in protracted displacement, having fled their homes in 1971 or since 1973. Most live outside of camps and some have fled to urban areas, while others have stayed close to their original homes. Many have been displaced several times, with families often separating to make ends meet.
The majority of the people displaced by the Kaptai dam in the early 1960s sought refuge in the forest areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region. Around half stayed in the vicinity of the reservoir, a third moved to the Kassalong Reserve forest, and the remainder moved to Chengyi-Myani valley and elsewhere in the hills.
After people displaced by the dam had rebuilt their homes in villages such as Larma Para, Narankhaiya and Logang in the Khagrachhari district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, they were forced to move again due to insurgency operations and the subsequent military response. While some became internally displaced, many crossed the border into India between 1986 and 1989.
Information on the needs of IDPs in Bangladesh is outdated and scarce. Some of the main needs of people displaced by disasters have included food, drinking water, sanitation, emergency shelter, cash for shelter repair, and disaster-resilient housing, and women, children, older people and people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable. There is some evidence that people displaced by conflict face threats to their physical security and that they struggle to access basic rights, such as adequate housing, education, employment, healthcare and civil documentation as their entitlement to citizenship has been questioned.
IDPs displaced by storms and floods in the low-lying delta near the Bay of Bengal are particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable to weather-related hazards and the effects of climate change, including sea level rise. Without the means to flee to other areas of the country that are less exposed to disaster risks, and with no access to services, they survive as landless agricultural labourers or fisherfolk. Unable to defend themselves against tumultuous weather, they endure cyclical monsoon floods and storms, which erode their ability to cope with shocks and stresses.
Little is known about the current situation of people displaced by development projects in Bangladesh, including their location and living conditions. People displaced from the Chittagong Hill Tracts region who wish to return or repossess their land are likely to face continued difficulty in doing so. The situation is complicated by the occupation of their land by Bengali people and by the fact that the mechanism approved in 2016 to resolve land disputes had not resolved any disputes by 2017.
Amnesty International, Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee 119th Session, 6-29 March 2017, 1 January 2017,
Displacement Solutions, Climate Displacement in Bangladesh, May 2012
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Bangladesh: comprehensive response required to complex displacement crisis, January 2015
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Study on the status of implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997, E/C.19.2011/16, 2011
Shaw, Rajib et al., Climate Migration and Urban Change in Bangladesh, in Urban Disasters
and Resilience in Asia, 08 January 2016