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Adapting to climate change: Needs of coastal people

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

By Mahfujur Rahman

 

 

Tornados and cyclones frequently ravage the coastal areas.

 

 

Bangladesh has been mentioned as the fourth vulnerable country to extreme events resulting from climate change by Germanwatch in their Global Climate Risk Index 2013. The coastal districts of the country are supposed to be the most vulnerable areas as the mighty sea would be more violent in a regime of climate change. However, according to the report, Bangladesh had experienced maximum number of extreme events worldwide during the period of 1992-2011. Bangladesh has experienced 50 terrible cyclonic storms and tidal surges since 1584 that took a toll of 672,000 people (Source: Disaster Dictionary-MoFDM). The country also experienced immeasurable economic losses since 1970 which paints an image of disaster prone country in our mind. Most of the 30 million people living along the 3,306 km coastline of Bangladesh are in abject poverty and are highly vulnerable to disastrous effects of climate change.


Probably, due to adaptive capacity of the people and institutions, both government and non-government, built through being with disaster for a long time, Bangladesh has of late experienced a lesser loss of life and properties compared to the potentials of hazards. Anyway climate change is pushing people’s sufferings to a higher degree through adverse impacts such as flood, drought, salinity increase, heat wave, cold wave and long lasting effects of cyclone with more frequency and intensity.


Coastal belt stretches along the southern border of the country that meets the Bay of Bengal with 44 million projected inhabitants. By 2015 they would be the most vulnerable to climate change impact in 19 districts of the country. These people are also one of the most vulnerable communities in the world. In south they face the sea that yields resources necessary for making a living for them. A huge number of people are involved with and depend on fishing.


Impact of climate change on agriculture is terrible. Sea level rise, shrinking sweet water source from the upstream, and storm surge (for example Sidr in 2007, Aila in 2009) have been aggravating the situation of salinity ingression, threatening agriculture, food security and bio-diversity in the coastal region. People previously engaged in agricultural production, now being landless or owner of infertile land, are forced to adopt other professions. As saline land does not support rice or other crops, they are sold to rich people who convert them into shrimp enclosure. Shrimp culture is shrinking livelihoods as it requires relatively less labour than agricultural activities. As a result jobless people migrate to nearby cities for work and livelihood which ultimately augment urban poverty especially in Dhaka. Thus climate change impacts on coastal area result in loss of life, property and livelihood in the areas as well as exert a negative effect on the economy of the country as a whole.


That climate change is impacting on agricultural production of coastal districts negatively is apparent from Koyraupazila under Khulna district and Assasuniupazila under Satkhira being frontier victims in the list of affected districts. About 18% of Rabi and 9% of Kharif crops are highly vulnerable to drought and this adverse effect will increase over time due to climate change. T. Aman a highly suitable crop in the two districts would be reduced to about only 40 percent area with sea level rise. On the other hand, the Boro suitable area will decrease from 46% to 6%. Lobster suitable areas will increase 12% due to 32 cm sea level rise, but it will decrease at SLR 88 cm due to excessive flood depths and salinity. The “suitable” area for Shrimp will decrease with the increase in sea level, as the lower salinities are preferable for it.


The situation in villages of Gabura union under Shayamnagarupazila of Satkhira district is very dismaying. The people of Gabura cannot grow any crops due to soil salinity arisen from excessive shrimp culture and impact of cyclone Aila. It would be very hard to ensure food security of the communities living there.


Due to rising sea level, saline water intrusion has crossed its historical limit and affected fresh water sources making drinking water a scarce resource. Livestock rearing has also experienced a drastic fall. Height of daily tides also increased due to sea level rise magnifying the effects of salinity intrusion. The final thrust of the adversity is the cyclone. People lose their houses, crops drown, soil becomes infertile with saline water intrusion and many people migrate to cities for work and shelter.


Problems that need to be addressed in the coastal area are Poverty and Food Insecurity, Water Logging, Lack of Shelter, Water Scarcity, Sanitation, Unstable Livelihoods, Migration and insufficient institutional capacity related to disaster management. People are adapting to adverse impacts such as salinity increase. But salinity of coastal belt has increased to intolerable limit. In Khulna salinity is detectable even in water supply system of the city. Many people store rainwater during monsoon in port city Chittagong as the supply water has also high level of salinity. People cannot rear chicken or cattle due to high level of salinity in water and soil. That is why they raise salinity tolerant ducks only. However, there are some more positive changes that people are making in their lives. But that is not sufficient for survival. They need intensive institutional support for adaptation.

 

 

 

Source: thedailystar

 

 


 

 

 

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