Chronic poverty and climate change in southwest Bangladesh
Where the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh was once a prosperous agricultural hub, today it is an area ravaged by salinity, natural disasters, poverty and an inability to cope with recurrent shocks. The introduction of the embankment system in the 1960’s and subsequent spread of shrimp farming throughout the region has caused dramatic levels of environmental degradation and poverty.
Today, communities face a regional depletion of natural resources including safe drinking water and struggle to maintain livelihoods. Both natural1 and human-induced disasters as well as the effects of climate change place increasing pressure on the region, hindering development. It is the combination of these factors that prevent stable and sustainable livelihoods, disaster resilience including the capacity to recover quickly and efficiently following disasters. This in turn perpetuates chronic poverty in the region.
This paper presents the main findings of a survey made in collaboration with the local NGO Uttaran in the southwest coastal belt of Bangladesh. The survey occurred between November 2011 and June 2012 and consisted of a series of initial assessments, follow-up participative assessments and SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL (SI)/Uttaran workshops. The survey was conducted in Assassuni, Shyamnagar, Dacope & Koyra Upazilas (UZ’s) in Khulna and Satkhira Districts. Both coastal belt frontline communities severely affected by the 2009 Aila cyclone and less affected inland communities were assessed.
The objective of this study was to capture the main challenges, impacts and effects of climate change on livelihoods in this region as well as identify levels of disaster resilience and existing coping strategies being utilized. What was found was a much more complex array of interlinking factors which together, present significant barriers to livelihood opportunities and sustainable development for communities, and the region as a whole.