For Bhagwan Devi, 38, and Shivakumar, 40, and their four children, a flood follows unseasonal rain so often now that they have less and less time to pick up the pieces and start over again.
Devi and Shivakumar had to flee their hut on the banks of the Yamuna River, which passes through Delhi, earlier this month as water levels rose without warning.
“This is how deep the water was,” said Devi, pointing to her chin.
The family, like thousands of others, has taken refuge on the roadside kerb, 100 meters (328 feet) from their now-flooded hut.
Their story is similar to that of millions of others in South Asia who are on the front line of climate change. According to the World Bank, climate change could force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050. In South Asia alone, 40.5 million people are expected to be displaced.
“The extreme rains in India’s Himalayan states are just the latest in a series of events in South Asia that are exacerbated by climate change,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the Climate Action Network International.
“We saw unprecedented and devastating floods in Pakistan earlier this year. We are facing melting glaciers in Nepal and Pakistan, rising seas in India and Bangladesh, and cyclones and inhospitable temperatures across the region. Climate change is increasingly forcing millions of people to flee their homes in search of safety and new means to provide for their families,” he added.
For Devi and others who live in Yamuna Khadar, on the floodplains of the Yamuna River, being dislocated by floods has become a way of life. The latest displacement was a consequence of extreme rainfall in upstream states that resulted in the swelling of rivers and the opening of many dams that were unable to hold the excess water.
Devi and Shivakumar are originally from the Budayun region in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, about five hours by road from Delhi. In Budayun, their homestead, which was 2km (1.24 miles) from the Ganges River, also repeatedly flooded. Unable to farm successfully because of unseasonal extreme weather, they decided to escape to Delhi to create a better life for themselves some 15 years ago.
In Delhi, they grow vegetables on a small patch of land in the Yamuna River’s floodplains to make ends meet. But as in Budayun, flooding and other extreme weather in Delhi are taking away the little they possess.
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