Adapting to climate change impact: An initiative in coastal Bangladesh
UTTAR Haldibunia is a village under Mongla upazila of Bagerhat district. The village is inhabited by several thousand people, most of whom are farm labourers. Agriculture is the only source of their income. But when 'Aila,' the cyclone with enormous tidal bore, hit the village a few years ago, they became jobless. This is because of their inability to cultivate crops following salinity infestation of their land. They being unable to combat salinity, most of their lands remained barren. The situation bewildered them.
At one stage, the villagers saw a ray of hope watching a musical performance (Zarigan) by a group of schoolgirls at their village school. The choir girls motivated them to fight back. They provided to the villagers vital knowledge on weather and climate, climate change and disaster risk. They made the villagers aware about the ill effects of climate change and asked them to act before it is too late.
The attractive event was organised as part of the climate campaign launched under a project titled: 'Improved Food and Livelihood Security (IFLS) Project' in the context of increased disaster risk and climate change apprehension in Mongla, Rampal and Sharankhola upazilas of Bagerhat district.
Disasters can hit any time and at any place. But always the poor people are hit the hardest. And for poor people, climate change is not just another cause of economic loss. It threatens the very possibility of their escape from poverty.
Global warming is increasing the severity and frequency of cyclones, storms, droughts and floods. If poor communities do not adapt to a changing climate, these events could well keep on increasing their distress.
For us rising sea levels mean that low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh may disappear altogether. These resulting disasters have a devastating impact on poor people's ability to farm and therefore their access to food.
Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), Caritas Bangladesh, ADD International and ITN BUET jointly implemented the IFLS project funded by the European Union and CAFOD, UK.
Launched in March, 2010, the three-year project was wrapped up in 2013. Seventy-five thousand families were brought under the project. These beneficiary families consisted of poor, physically or mentally challenged people and the families headed by women.
“Zarigan and integrated disaster risk reduction simulation exercises were organised thrice while refreshers' training course was organized for 90 participants.
Mass awareness campaigns on livelihood security and climate change issues were held in the project areas. The activities helped the villagers attain capacity to combat disaster and its management.
The writer is an environmental activist.