Bangladesh – Project sites have been selected

Our research project in Bangladesh is making good progress. Our partners from UNU-EHS and ICCCAD identified 6 communities, which we will accompany for the next five years. We aim to identify risks the local people are exposed to, understand adaptation progresses that are already in place and to offer solutions for increased resilience.

1. Gabdola, Bagerhat
Gabdola is a riverside community in the extreme south of Bagerhat district. Hundreds of residents from this community have been displaced in subsequent flooding events over the past 25 years that, each time, have overwhelmed embankments and catastrophically eroded homes and fields. This community illustrates the core problem of adaptation policy in places experiencing worsening environmental stress over the course of time. When floods first affected people’s lands and assets, they were eligible for assistance; however, with subsequent floods, some have become landless, and once they enter this condition, they no longer qualify for much-needed adaptation resources.

2. Mazer Char, Bagerhat
Over the past several decades heavy sedimentation loads in the dynamic Baleswar river have given birth to the island community of Mazer Char. This island’s roughly 1,000 inhabitants depend mainly on fishing, cash crops, and aquiculture, but since Mazer Char sits very near sea-level in the very extreme south of Bangladesh, these livelihood systems are fragile. During the cyclone season, the community experiences both seasonal and catastrophic flooding, and the storm surges that accompany cyclones threaten the island’s periphery with erosion and interior with increased salinity. 
3. Dalbanga, Barguna
Dalbanga South is located in Barguna District in the South of Bangladesh. People here depend mainly on rice and cash crop production, fisheries and fish ponds. Major threats in this location are riverbank erosion, king tides, standing water, water logging and saline intrusion. The king tides began occurring recently with the cyclone Mahasen. Also, one of the most devastating cyclones ever experienced here, cyclone Sidr, hit Dalbanga particularly hard.

4. Singpur, Kishoreganj
The immense force of meandering rivers plays a dominant role in the settlement patterns and livelihood practices of many communities in deltaic states like Bangladesh. One such meander is slicing through a char community, Singpur in Kishoreganj, in a relative short time period, devastating homes and fields, but also communal infrastructure such as schools, mosques and clinics. But even in the context of these overwhelming environmental forces, one surprising factor increases the sensitivity of household livelihoods to environmental shocks: indebtedness.

5. Babupur, Naugaon
In the late 1990s, rainfall patterns in Naugaon began shifting. The drought began as a dry-spell that decimated the year’s second rice harvest, and within the space of a few years, rice farmers abandoned the second harvest altogether. With the help of drought tolerant rice cultivars, rain harvesting systems and well-fed irrigation system, the community of Babupur is producing more rice than ever. Bapupur demonstrates how adaptation can succeed if needs and knowledge of local communities are respected.

6. Zamalpur, Naugaon
In Zamalpur, which unlike Babupur has not benefited from adaptation programmes, drought has transformed livelihood systems dramatically. Virtually all of the men have spent time in Dhaka as manual laborers or rickshaw pullers, and in some communities, women are also migrating to the garment factories in Dhaka –an action that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Many farmers have dug up their centuries-old rice terraces and planted mangos. Mangos, though profitable, generate less employment and link the community to volatility of an international farm commodity. We will try to find out if and how the success story of Babupur can be replicated in Zamalpur as well to improve resilience of the local community.

CB, 20 June 2013
Photos: David Wrathall, UNU-EHS 

Disaster Prevention

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> Christian Barthelt

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