NEW DELHI (AP) — For Bhagwan Devi, 38, and Shivakumar, 40, and their four children, a flood follows the unusual rain, so often now they have less and less time to pick up the pieces and start over .
Devi and Sivakumar were forced to leave their hut on the banks of the Yamuna river earlier this month as the water level rose without warning.
“That’s how deep the water was,” Devi said, pointing to her chin.
The family, like thousands of others, have taken refuge on the sidewalk at the side of the road, 100 meters (328 feet) from their now-flooded shack.
Their story is similar to that of millions of others in South Asia who are on the front lines of climate change. According to the World Bank, climate change could force 216 million people to migrate within their countries by 2050. In South Asia alone, 40.5 million people are expected to be displaced.
“Extreme rainfall in India’s Himalayan states is just the latest in a series of events in South Asia exacerbated by climate change,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International.
“We saw unprecedented and devastating floods in Pakistan earlier this year. We face 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 living in Yamuna Khadar in Mayur Vihar, located on the flood plains of the Yamuna River, flood displacement has become a way of life. The latest shift was an indirect consequence of extreme rainfall in the upstream states in the Himalayan mountain region which resulted in swelling of rivers and opening of many dams unable to accommodate the excess water.
The flooding of another sacred river was a key reason why Devi, her family and their parents sought refuge in India’s capital, New Delhi.
Devi and Shivakumar are from the Budayun district in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, about a five-hour drive from Delhi. In Budayun, their house, which was 2 kilometers (1.24 mi) from the Ganges River, was also repeatedly flooded. Unable to exploit successfully due to unusual extreme weather, they decided to escape to Delhi to create a better life for themselves around 15 years ago.
In Delhi, they grow vegetables on a small piece of land in the flood plains of the Yamuna River to make ends meet. But as in Budayun, floods and other extreme weather conditions in Delhi take away what little they have.
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