Migration and adaptation: a case study from the Khulna-Jessore region

by Nazia Bushra, Research Assistant, Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU)

Khulna stands on the banks of the Rupsha and the Bhairab rivers, located in southwest Bangladesh, and it is the geographical mid-point between the ports of Jessore and Mongla. It is also the second largest seaport of the country.

image001In the coming years, the Khulna-Jessore regions are going to become increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Khulna is already prone to salinity intrusion and cyclones.  Less fresh water now flows in the adjacent rivers and saltwater intrudes here from the Bay of Bengal.  Also, the local shrimp aquaculture is affected by viruses and other harmful factors related to high salinity and the increase in water temperature.

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In the case of Jessore, the increased salinity, floods, and storms are all major drivers of human migration from this locale.  In order to obtain accurate data on the magnitude of migration and adaptation status of these two regions, we conducted a household survey of the 8 mouzas of these two cities. During the household listing survey, we found that people are suffering here from livelihood crises and related economic challenges. A large portion of household members that we interviewed were educated, which might explain their tendency to migrate to other regions and abroad.  However, some of them are adapting to the present situation by adopting new technologies.  They cultivate saline-resistant rice varieties (e.g. IRRI-11, 23, 54) and vegetables (e.g. water-melon, pumpkin etc.) but most cultivation takes place only during the rainy season; in dry season they usually buy vegetables and crops from neighbouring areas.

In Khulna, some of the most challenging environmental situations are found in Amurkata and Paikgachha. The communication system, mobile networks and food accessibility are all hampered by logistical issues.  Environmental problems such as salinity of drinking water, low diversity of crop varieties, waterlogging, and cyclone-induced tidal surges are pervasive in this area. Local NGO’s such as ASA, BRAC, JJS, NOBOJUG etc. are trying to provide fresh water to these areas and the government is also constructing some cyclone shelters. Because of the prevalence of cyclones, most of the houses are made up of mud and conventional golpata, and electricity is relatively scarce among these types of dwellings.

In Jessore, Bahadurpur village has two areas named Mathpara and Hotatpara which received many migrants from neighbouring areas during times of flood and other natural disasters. These displaced persons are economically vulnerable as they try to adapt to life here. They face unemployment, job insecurity and the lack of other basic facilities, such as a scarcity of clean water. The unhygienic sanitation conditions, combined with the other difficulties, have led to a high incidence of diseases.

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