Understanding the effects of labour migration on vulnerability to extreme events in Hindu Kush Himalayas: case studies from Upper Assam and Baoshan County (2017)

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The overwhelming focus on causal linkages between environmental stressors and the migration decision making, disagreement among stakeholders regarding the positioning of migration within CCA discourse, and the lack of empirical evidence surrounding the role of migration as adaptation have been major impediments to mainstreaming migration in adaptation policies. There is a growing consensus among migration scholars regarding the potential contribution of migration to the lives and livelihoods of the migrants and their families left behind. However, the extent to which migration can contribute to climate change adaptation (CCA) in migrant-sending households, origin communities, or origin countries is a complex issue and requires further exploration. This thesis attempts to fill some of this knowledge gap by developing a conceptual approach to understand the effects of migration in the context of adaptation to extreme events such as drought and floods. As such, it is not concerned as to why someone migrates, but purely on its effects. This thesis shifts the focus to consequences of migration outcomes. The discourse on migration and adaptation has witnessed the same contestations of structuralism, neo-classical, and pluralist viewpoints with reference to effects of migration on development of migrant-sending households and origin communities. These lessons are pertinent for migration and adaptation discourse, and I use these lessons to build the conceptual framework of this thesis. It attempts to understand how the choices on remittance usage already made by households affects the CCA to extreme events. This thesis adopts a mixed-methods and comparative approach to validate the conceptual framework, based on case studies from Baoshan County of Yunnan Province in China and Upper Assam in India. A key component of CCA is the reduction of vulnerability of a system to climate change and variability. The vulnerability concept provides a framework to unpack the constituents of vulnerability. A reduction in vulnerability to an extreme event requires a reduction in sensitivity and enhancement of capacity to adapt. This thesis analyses the vulnerability of the remittance-recipient households compared to households that do not have access to remittances. It also characterises sensitivity and adaptive capacity of the remittance-recipient households in context of duration for which a household has received remittances and distance to destination. Results suggest that remittances affect certain sub-dimensions and attributes of vulnerability and these affects vary in different contexts. The mobility patterns and its consequences within a country are shaped by a wide range of policies and institutions. The creation of an enabling condition for adaptation remains a critical function for the governments, thus migration could not be a substitute for public investment in development and adaptation in origin communities. The availability of an enabling environment and reduction in structural constrains would reduce the risks from migration and help remittance-recipient households to leverage remittances for CCA.
Year: 2017
Language: English
Page: 284
Thesis note: Thesis (Ph. D.) - School of Global Studies, Department of Geography, University of Sussex

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Note: This PhD research has been supported by the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP), which is implemented jointly by the ICIMOD, the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research Oslo (CICERO), and Grid-Arendal in collaboration with local partners and is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Norway, and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).