Of all the countries in the world, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The regular and severe environmental hazards that already batter the country – tropical cyclones, river erosion, flood, landslides and drought – are all projected to increase in intensity and frequency as a result of global environmental change. Fieldwork conducted in the Lakshmipur district, southeast of Dhaka, enabled Northern and Bangladesh WP 3 members to observe first-hand how the effects of cyclones such as Roanu (heavy rain, strong winds and storm surge) together with the impact of Meghna river erosion affect the daily lives and livelihoods of inhabitants of Lakhipur and Ramgoti. The WP3 team in the field consisted of Dr Anwara Begum (BIDS), Mr Rashed Bhuiyan and Mr Mahmudol Hasan Rocky (RMRRU), and Dr Ricardo Safra de Campos (University of Exeter), with logistical support provided by BUET.
As part of our work associated with resettlement, displacement and abandonment, the fieldwork team interviewed local government officials in Lakhipur and Ramgoti, members of governmental agencies in Dhaka, NGO representatives, resettled communities and members of households residing in vulnerable localities. In total, 19 stakeholder interviews were conduct by the WP 3 field team covering resettlement policy design and implementation. The fieldwork also included visits to resettlement projects in Ramgoti Upazila where researchers conducted interviews and collected empirical evidence on perceptions, expectations, and material and subjective wellbeing of local families. Among other findings, the interviews revealed the magnitude of the impact of riverbank erosion in Ramgoti. The mighty Meghna River has already engulfed 37 kilometres of the 96 kilometre flood protection embankment covering the Ramgati and Kamalnagar Upazilas, putting agricultural land, homes and local infrastructure at risk. These and the many other adverse effects of climate change will have profound repercussions for the economy and development of the country.
One of the most important impacts related to climate change and environmental hazards will be the forced movement of people throughout Bangladesh as a result of loss of homes, lands, property and livelihoods. For many inhabitants of deltaic areas in the country, spatial mobility in the form of permanent, seasonal and circular migration has become an integral part of life. Over past decades, a significant proportion of men and women in those areas have become migrant workers in order to sustain their families back home. The vast majority of this population movement takes place internally presenting the government with enormous challenges such as addressing key issues of housing, income-generating activities and access to frontline services such as health, education and basic sanitation in large urban centres such as Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna.
Other objectives of the field activity included pre-testing the preliminary draft of the migrant receiving area questionnaire in localities in Dhaka that concentrate large numbers of migrants. The WP 3 team visited the informal settlement districts of Mirpur-12, Bholar Bosti, Molla Bosti and Duaripara. Interviews with local residents of these localities revealed a variety of migration pathways, histories and driving factors including an environmental factor – whether climate related or not. Virtually all stakeholders interviewed suggested that rural to urban migration will continue to slums. Due to the lack of adequate income, food, water, shelter and basic amenities these migrants might be drawn into a cycle of poverty and indebtedness, as labour migration is often costly in itself. Nonetheless, those families that cannot employ migration as an option to improve their living condition might be worse off. These people may be ‘trapped’ in a deteriorating environment where traditional forms of livelihood are unsustainable and poverty and social disadvantage are a constant presence in their everyday lives.