Lessons learned from Bangladesh NCAP Project

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 17th Mar 2020
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Life and livelihoods

Climate change may affect the coastal region through salinity, erosion, accretion, floods, waterlogging, cyclones and tidal surges. Livelihoods of people have been affected through the impacts of climate change on agriculture, fishing, livestock, shrimp farming, off-farm activities and even the locations of human settlements. Over the centuries, climate variability and extreme weather events have caused damage to people’s lives, assets, resources and livelihood practices, which eventually have led people to devise indigenous coping strategies for survival. The practiced coping mechanisms within the communities and their traditional knowledge-base enable them to organize at the community level and manage disasters. Even their wealth of knowledge regarding the management of their livelihoods in different changed climatic scenarios is found to be substantial.

The study area suffers tremendously from waterlogging which is expected to be aggravated with the change of climatic patterns. Arguably, the best coping potential lies in moderation of the physical risk factors. For the prevention of waterlogging, proper drainage systems and housing planning must be ensured. For this, local government can initiate different measures to drain out the water due to excessive rainfall and to structure a planned township.

Other than waterlogging, droughts, cyclones and salinity are the most devastating phenomena in Noakhali district. To cope with cyclones, adequate multipurpose cyclone centers can be built. To renovate or rebuild the dwellings as a protection from cyclones, soft-term loans can be disbursed to local people. To cope with drought and salinity, research must be carried out in the agricultural sector to develop crop varieties (especially rice varieties) which can tolerate these conditions.

Agriculture

Simulation studies have shown that the climate change impacts could result in significant reductions in crop yields, in most cases, and therefore production. The effect of the changes would vary because of the differences in the crop varieties and local differences in growing seasons, crop management etc.

As the incidence of floods and droughts is likely to increase in frequency, effort should be made to develop crop varieties tolerant to these conditions. On the other hand, agronomic manipulations such as shifting the planting dates, using short duration crop varieites could be other options.

During the dry months of March and April, salinity problems, resulting from seawater intrusion, are more acute and lands are commonly left fallow as crop production is restricted by the presence of salt. Cash crops such as tomatos and chilies can be grown with proper management of soil and water. Use of raised beds and irrigation through drip irrigation systems permit proper leaching of salt from the root zone. This system of crop cultivation produces high economic benefits compared to traditional methods.

Improvement in the crop-based weather and flood forecasting systems is one of the adaptation measures that is urgently required. Early warning systems should be strengthened to inform the farmers about their roles in an adverse weather condition on the basis of specific information analysis. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) provides 'extension messages' on the basis of agro-meteorology and agro-climatic data, and forecasts the sowing/transplanting time and possible yields of crops to the farmers.

Fisheries

The potential impacts on coastal fisheries may include: (i) loss of coastal inland fisheries; (ii) further changes in species composition, particularly due to inundation of coastal areas; (iii) loss of fresh water culture fisheries due to storm surge-related tidal bores and salt water inundation; (iv) changes in fishing methods and gear; (v) declined hilsa fishery due to changes in migratory routes; and (vi) loss of shrimp farms, etc. However, there could be increased fish production from marine fisheries.

The present coping strategies practiced by the community and supportive activities undertaken by various agencies for combating the adverse impacts of climate induced disasters are probably not adequate to address the full range of present and potential impacts in the future and therefore would require some additional adaptation in future. With the participation of local people, a range of future adaptation needs are identified, which are as follows: (i) improvement of fish habitats; (ii) promotion of mechanization of boats for fishing in the sea; (iii) further promotion of scientific pond aquaculture; (iv) introduction and promotion of community-based doghi culture; (v) development and promotion of culture of salt tolerant fish species; (vi) strengthening of evacuation system and awareness building; (vii) increasing of embankment heights; and (vii) construction of cyclone centers in newly formed char lands.

Fishing boats

It has been found that poor structural strength of the boats is the principal reason for the accidents involving fishing boats. The poor strength is caused by the use of poor quality timber, poor construction and improper maintenance. The second but far less important reason is the poor condition of the engine and equally poor maintenance and operation. However, all these are the direct result of lack of availability of market finance for the sector and it hardly needs mentioning that most of the boat owners, especially in the study area, are poor. There are other factors such as inadequate life saving and communication equipment, absence of navigation aid etc. The improvement in these matter would either contribute to reduction of human casualties in such accidents or avoid the hostile situation altogether.

Housing

Instead of designing a proto-typical model house to be indiscriminately replicated without paying heed to context, it was conceived wise to recommend ‘Building-for-Safety (BFS) Options’. These are modest technological innovations that would contribute towards improving the performance of existing housing types by strengthening or improving parts of the house, which are particularly weak and vulnerable in the local climate.

Because of the coastal location, houses need to be built to withstand strong wind. Perhaps the nature of rural housing would not permit it to withstand a severe cyclone, but strengthening the house structure would at least provide resistance to the frequent strong winds and storms. The roof is particularly exposed to damage by wind and this building aspect requires careful attention by incorporating strengthening techniques within local means.

There is a need for trained, village-level house building specialists – ‘para-architects’ or ‘barefoot engineers’ – for replicating, disseminating and sustaining within the community new construction methods that are introduced. Key people at the community level should be trained for this purpose.

Institutions

The local level institutes need to be equipped with climate change knowledge so that they can help the local people in adapting to the change. Engineering related local level institutes have technical people and are capable of incorporating climate change into their design provided there is higher level decision making and funds are available. It is also important to note that changes in infrastructural design need local level data and information of climate change impacts on different infrastructures. Awareness raising and targeted capacity building for different groups is necessary to promote rural development and livelihoods of the local community. Incorporation of climate change issues in the sectoral policies and institutional mandate for awareness raising at senior level (decision makers) is equally important.

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Bangladesh NCAP Project

Methodology of Bangladesh NCAP Project

Key findings from Bangladesh NCAP Project