Jerifa Islam, 8, only has a vague memory of the river being angry, its floods devouring her family’s property, and the waves pounding their house during the rainy season flooding. The huge Brahmaputra River then ate everything one day in July of 2019.
Her house was destroyed in India’s Assam state’s Darrang district. But the tragedy sent Jerifa and her 12-year-old brother Raju on a road that finally took them to schools in Bengaluru, about 2,000 miles (3,218 kilometres) away, where people speak the Kannada language, which is so unlike to the kids’ native Bangla.
Early on, things were challenging. Raju was unable to comprehend a word of the Kannada teaching given in the free state-run institutions.
But he persisted, telling himself that even being in class was preferable to the months in Assam when flooded roads prevented him from attending school. He remarked, “At first, I didn’t comprehend what was occurring, but once the teacher patiently explained things to me, I started learning.
The infants were born in a low-lying community that was bordered by the river and the Himalayas. It was no stranger to torrential rains and cyclonic flooding, like many areas in northeastern India.
But their mother Pinjira Khatun, 28, and their father, Jaidul Islam, 32, were aware that something had changed. Flash floods have increased in frequency and unpredictability, and the rains had grown more variable. The year they made the decision to go to Bengaluru, a metropolis of over 8 million people recognised as India’s Silicon Valley, they were among the estimated 2.6 million residents of Assam state who were impacted by floods.
Nobody in their family had ever relocated this far away from their home, but any remaining uncertainties were surpassed by hopes for a better life and a decent education for their kids. They thought that their little knowledge of Hindi, the most frequently spoken language in India, would be sufficient for them to function in the city, where they were aware that adjacent villages had found employment.
The two stuffed what little they could into a big suitcase that they planned to later stuff with new possessions. We had nothing when we left home. Two towels, a mosquito net, and some children’s clothing. It was over, said Islam.
The parents, who neither have a formal education, claimed their life are centred on making sure their children have more possibilities, said the luggage is already filling up with school workbooks. The father remarked, “My children will not have the same difficulties as I experienced.”
The family left the low-lying Darrang region, which experiences frequent floods and severe rainfall. The majority of the season’s rainfall now occurs in a few days, followed by dry periods, due to the irregular nature of the monsoons brought on by climate change and rising temperatures. According to a thinktank with its headquarters in New Delhi, the area is one of India’s most vulnerable to climate change.
According to Anjal Prakash, research director of India’s Bharti Institute of Public Policy, floods and droughts frequently happen at the same time. He said that the long-standing natural water systems in the Himalayan area are currently “broken.”
According to Prakash, the number of climate migrants in India has increased during the last ten years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also predicted this year that 143 million people will likely be displaced globally over the course of the next 30 years as a result of drought, extreme heat, and rising seas.
Uncertainty exists on the number of migrants in India, which is estimated to be 139 million. According to a 2021 World Bank research, cities like Bengaluru are expected to become the preferred destination by 2050 for the almost 40 million South Asians who will have to abandon their homes due to climate change.