Call for proposals: 6th International Climate Change and Population Conference on Africa in Accra, Ghana

DECCMA Ghana lead institution, the Regional Institute for Population Studies at the University of Ghana, will host the 6th International Climate Change and Population Conference on Africa. The conference will take place in Accra from 23-25th July 2018 with the theme “The future we do not want”. Abstracts will be accepted in three areas namely: (i) Policy and Practice, (ii) Development & Intervention Projects, and (iii) Basic and Applied Sciences, across relevant disciplines in the Humanities, Population Sciences, Health Sciences, Basic & Applied Sciences, and the Engineering & GeoSpatial Sciences, and should be submitted by 18th May.

Sub-themes that will be addressed during the conference include:

  1. Population – climate nexus
  2. Population health and climate change
  3. Climate change and energy
  4. Coastal zones and green growth
  5. Cities and climate change
  6. Climate finance and investment
  7. Climate change negotiations and diplomacy
  8. Adaptation and mitigation
  9. Food security and agrarian / rural communities
  10. Climate change and poverty
  11. Sustainable development goals
  12. Water resources management

“An environment for wellbeing: Pathways out of poverty”-learning from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation programme

Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) is a global interdisciplinary research programme that began in 2009 with the aim of giving decision-makers and natural resource users the evidence they need to address the challenges of sustainable ecosystem management and poverty reduction. The programme was developed by the UK government in response to the findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that substantial gains in human well-being in recent decades have been achieved at the expense of high and often irreversible levels of ecosystem degradation.

This short film highlights some of ESPA’s findings on the role of ecosystem services in diversifying livelihood options for vulnerable people, the contribution of sustainably managed ecosystem services to national wealth (and related poverty reduction), and insights into how to better manage ecosystems to deliver sustainable, green and inclusive growth. It features insights from ESPA Deltas and ECOLIMITS, looking at the ecological limits of poverty alleviation focusing on smallholder coffee farmers in Ethiopia, and cocoa farmers in Ghana.

DECCMA holds its 8th whole consortium meeting in Bangladesh

by Katharine Vincent

What have we learned about migration and adaptation in deltas? Last week nearly 50 members of the DECCMA team from Bangladesh, Ghana, India and the northern team convened in Dhaka for the 8th whole consortium meeting. It was an exciting opportunity to learn about a critical mass of research findings that have been developed over the past 3.5 years, and plan how to ensure they inform theory, policy and practice.

Participants at the DECCMA8th whole consortium meeting, with key Bangladesh government representatives concerned with adaptation and the Delta Plan 2100

When it commenced in 2014, DECCMA set itself seven ambitious objectives, namely:

(1) to understand the governance mechanisms that promote or hinder migration of men and women in deltas;

(2) to identify climate change impact hotspots in deltas where vulnerability will grow and adaptation will be needed;

(3) to understand the conditions that promote migration and its outcomes, as well as gender-specific adaptation options for trapped populations, via surveys;

(4) to understand how climate-change-driven global and national macro-economic processes impact on migration of men and women in deltas;

(5) to produce an integrated systems-based bio-physical and socio-economic model to investigate
potential future gendered migration under climate change;

(6) to conceptualise and evaluate migration within a wide suite of potential adaptation options at both the household and delta level;

(7) to identify feasible and desirable adaptation options and support implementation of stakeholder-led gender-sensitive adaptation policy choices.

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During the consortium meeting each country team consolidated its findings around these objectives to synthesise what we have learned so far within each of the deltas. A wide-ranging and detailed set of analyses was presented, from assessment of the existence and status of implementation of adaptation-related policies in each country, to migration patterns and consequences, and models of fishery and livestock productivity.  The structure of a hybrid model framework has been developed, based on Bayesian network analysis with multiple nodes so that it can project the impacts of climate change on the biophysical and socio-economic environments, as well as adaptation and migration decisions and consequences.

Planning took place to ensure that these findings are published in the peer-reviewed literature, and also in the form of a book. At the same time, DECCMA is committed to ensuring that research findings are effectively communicated to various stakeholders to ensure that they can inform policy and practice, enabling sustainable adaptation to climate change in deltas and proactive management of projected migration patterns. The integrated assessment model will play a key role in this, and over the course of the project relationships have been built with key stakeholders in each country who have an interest in this information for their planning decisions. Alongside targeted and tailored policy briefs, the team will also be available to support governments in developing adaptation finance proposals.

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DECCMA Special Session on Science-Policy Dialogue at the 4th Gobeshona Conference

by Mashrekur Rahman

The venue for this year’s Gobeshona Annual Conference for Research on Climate Change in Bangladesh was the Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB). The fourth day of the conference was centered on science-policy dialogues. A special session on the fourth day at the conference was hosted by DECCMA (DEltas, vulnerability & Climate Change: Migration & Adaptation) Project, IWFM (Institute of Water and Flood Management), BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology).

Professor Dr. Munsur Rahman presented his keynote presentation titled “Integrated Assessment in Deltas”, focusing on the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) Deltas and DECCMA projects – two major international collaborative research projects which have attempted to link science and policy by providing policy makers with the scientific data, tools and expertise. Dr. Munsur briefly laid out the various aims, components and outputs of the two projects and discussed how the projects have been instrumental in the formulation of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP 2100).

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Thereafter, a panel discussion was held; the panelists were Mr. Saiful Alam – ex- Technical Director of WARPO, Malik Fida A Khan – Deputy Executive Director, Operation of CEGIS (Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services), Dr.

Md. Taibur Rahman – Project Manager, UNDP, Dr. Sultan Ahmed – Additional Secretary, Department of Environment (DoE). The panel session was chaired by Professor Dr. Shamsul Alam–Member (Senior Secretary), General Economics Division (GED), Bangladesh Planning Commission, Government of Bangladesh.

Mr. Saiful Alam discussed Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO)’s past involvement and contributions in the two before mentioned projects and the technical know-how provided for BDP 2100. He also briefly discussed the modelling aspects of WARPO and the two projects.  Mr. Malik Fida A Khan appreciated the value of the projects in integrating science and policy in Bangladesh and then emphasized on the importance of mainstreaming of tools such as the Delta Dynamic Integrated Emulator Model to ensure maximum science-policy linkage. Professor Shamsul Alam particularly pointed out glaring data gaps on climate change issues in Bangladesh and mentioned that the ESPA Deltas and the DECCMA projects have contributed a lot in somewhat abridging those gaps. Dr. Taibur discussed about the nexus between the scientific community and policy makers. He accentuated the importance of not adopting a consultant based approach for long term delta planning and encouraged the policy makers, politicians and leaders to be more accepting of a science-backed approach in planning, ensuring sustainable development. Dr. Sultan highlighted on how coastal vulnerabilities of Bangladesh have been exacerbated by degrading ecosystem services. He then discussed several approaches to bridging gaps between the scientific community and policy makers.

After speeches from the panelists, the floor was opened to the audience for a lively discussion session. At the end of discussions, Professor Dr. Munsur thanked everyone and subsequently Professor Shamsul Alam drew an official end to the session.

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Gender and the Paris Agreement to the UNFCCC

By Katharine Vincent

Climate change does not affect men and women in the same way.  DECCMA recognises this and, through its research, aims to “deliver policy support to create the conditions for sustainable, gender-sensitive adaptation”.  How is DECCMA in line with the gender dimensions of climate change in international policy?

African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change side event at COP22 in Marrakech

The Paris Agreement is the latest legally-binding outcome under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the global policy framework for addressing climate change.  The Paris Agreement has been in the spotlight again after the recent 23rd Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC, hosted by Fiji and held in Bonn.

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Despite the existing UNFCCC commitments to gender, the Paris Agreement is, outside of the Preamble, largely gender-blind.  A set of recent papers, commissioned by the African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change with the support of IDRC, show that the term “gender” features only three times throughout the whole Paris Agreement: once in the Preamble; once in Article 7 (adaptation-focused); and once in Article 1 (capacity building-focused).  Neither the articles on mitigation nor technology transfer mention gender.

By not explicitly referencing gender there is a risk that Parties do not apply a gender-responsive approach in implementing the Agreement, and thus existing gender inequalities are reinforced.   Women typically have less control over land, lower education levels, more restricted mobility (due to their home-based roles), and poorer levels of participation in decision-making compared to men.  However gender differences are context-specific and unpacking them is essential to develop gender-responsive adaptation.

Within its household survey DECCMA has been investigating the different ways that men and women adapt to climate change in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Indian Bengal, Mahanadi and Volta deltas.  It is our intention to use this to support gender-responsive adaptation, as outlined in Article 7 of the Paris Agreement.  Gender-responsive adaptations are better targeted to the different needs of men and women, and thus more effective and efficient.  We are also gender-sensitive in our capacity building attempts, and thus consistent with Article 11 of the Paris Agreement.

For a detailed gender analysis of the Paris Agreement, see this background paper produced by the African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change (with support of IDRC), and an accompanying gender-responsive implementation framework.

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Holiday Experience in a Delta

by Sumana Banerjee

A holiday in Egypt during September this year was my first experience of a delta outside of DECCMA. Like any holiday it was supposed to be a break from work but quite on the contrary, I found myself asking questions, spotting differences and similarities, and doing some online research based on our DECCMA themes. That is why I am writing about the things I learnt on a holiday on our DECCMA blog.

1 The Giza Pyramid Complex, Egypt

 

Significance of the pyramid shape

For most tourists Egypt is synonymous with The Great Pyramid of Giza and I was no exception. The first glimpse of the man-made marvel from the ancient world made my heart skip a beat. It was an enthralling experience to witness the 3000 year old exemplary creation of man. There are plenty of theories about the construction of pyramids and their mysteries. The one fact which will be relevant here is the shape of the pyramid which represents the physical body emerging from the earth and ascended towards the light of the sun. This shape was thus considered sacred by ancient Egyptians. The Papyrus which was first used in ancient Egypt has a cross-section resembling the triangular face of the pyramid and we were told at a Papyrus Institute that this was also very important and sacred for the ancient Egyptians.

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I couldn’t help but draw a connection between the triangular face of the pyramid, the triangular cross-section of the papyrus, and the triangular shape of a delta. I wondered if the delta being a lifeline of the region could have any role to play in influencing the triangular faces of the pyramids.

2 Cross-section of a papyrus stalk

The River Nile

The very first sight of the River Nile at Cairo brought back geography lessons and hours of meticulous map pointing learnt way back in school. I was seeing the world’s longest river and Cairo was the apex of the Nile delta. Our itinerary entailed a 3-night river cruise along the Nile and I was excited to experience it. From our river cruise, we availed an optional speedboat ride to a Nubian village (about 8kms from Aswan) and that gave us an opportunity to soak our feet in the cool waters of the Nile. Before this ride, I knew that cataracts are for aging eyes but during this speedboat ride, our guide showed us the first cataract of the Nile. Cataracts are a mass of rocky formations in the riverbed jutting well above the water. Around this cataract the otherwise calm water was breaking and speeding naturally.

3 Cataract of the River Nile

Alexandria

The journey from Cairo to Alexandria took us about three hours by car. I noticed a stretch where there were many Brick kilns on both sides of the road. This was similar to what we see in the Indian Bengal Delta (IBD). I am not sure if the areas under brickfields in Egypt have undergone similar land transformations like in IBD but I wondered if conversion of deltaic lands into brickfields is a globally lucrative trend.

4 Chimneys of brick-kilns along the highway between Cairo and Alexandria

Flooding of the Nile

Since time immemorial Nile floods have quenched the thirst of the adjacent flood plains and added silt which has played a major role to support the Egyptian civilization. While no flooding led to drought followed by famine, severe flooding proved hazardous. It was the moderate flooding that the Egyptians looked forward to and this was the important part of their agricultural cycle as after the inundation season they sowed the seeds. Like any natural hazard, floods back then too had an effect on the economy – nature of flooding would have an impact on the quality of the harvest which will determine the tax to be paid. These administrative decisions were taken based on the exemplary mechanisms which were in place to predict the floods and thereby the quality of the harvest.

While scientists today have the flood-prediction models, the ancient Egyptians had the Nilometer. We saw one such Nilometer at the Temple of Kom Ombo, Aswan. It looked like a well to us till we were explained the elaborate architecture it housed. Upon looking down, we saw a flight of steps going down along the interior wall of the cylindrical well (see image 6). The water in it is the water of the Nile as the well is connected to the River. Being situated within the temple complex it was accessible only by the priests and kings who were responsible for assessing the water level in the Nilometer, making predictions based on how many steps were inundated, before finally deciding the tax. Like our scientists today who use previous years’ data to fit into models, the ancient Egyptians too kept a record of the previous years’ flood level by keeping marks on the walls. Unfortunately, now these Nilometers have been rendered defunct after the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

5 Nilometer – outside view

6 Nilometer – inside view

Developmental Project, Relocation, and Resettlement

Continuing the discussion on floods, the construction of the Aswan High Dam was an effort to introduce controlled flooding alongside providing water for irrigation and generating hydroelectricity. The economic benefits of this developmental project have mainly been in agricultural and electrical production. The construction of the dam involved resettlement of about 50,000 Egyptians and relocation of ancient monuments as the reservoir, Lake Nasser, created by the dam has flooded the valley. The famous Abu Simbel temple was relocated to higher grounds and I did not understand that the temple was not built at its present place till the guide told me. Not only did I feel overawed seeing the gigantic facade of the temple, I felt awe at the acumen involved in making this relocation happen.

The relocation of the temple was a great feat achieved by archaeologists but it might have been easier than the relocation of the Nubians as the temple did not have a lifestyle and tradition entwined with its original land. Upon some research I learnt that the construction of the Aswan High Dam is not the first time that the Nubians were moving from their lands. During the construction and heightening of the Aswan Low Dam, these people moved to higher lands but after the construction of the High Dam their villages were submerged under Lake Nasser. The Egyptian government put in years of study to make this a successful planned resettlement by trying to replicate as many features of the Nubian villages and also by providing electricity, road network, and irrigational facilities.[1] However all don’t seem happy (as informed by our guide) with the resettlement as this new place hampers the traditional Nubian way of life in many ways. Some online research would also throw light on the gaps in the resettlement process. These lessons might be beneficial for other governments making efforts in planned resettlement.

7 Panoramic view of the Aswan High Dam

Migration then and now

The mystery behind the construction of pyramids still remains and there are countless theories trying to answer who constructed those and how they managed to achieve such a height of architectural precision in ancient times. One of the theories which I learnt was that the farmers from the plains came up to the Giza Plateau, when the Nile’s annual flood inundated their agricultural lands, to work as labourers in the construction of the Pyramids. Skilled architects and artists supervised these labour groups. My DECCMA-laced mind made a note of this example of seasonal migration from more than 3000 years ago which had an environmental factor (at the source) prompting it and an economic opportunity in the destination.

We got a very brief glimpse of migration today as our guide informed us that tourism being an important industry (tourism took a hit after the revolution in 2011 but is slowly picking up since 2016), people migrate to Cairo and Alexandria to work in the hotels, with tourist companies, or even as freelancing guides.

Sobek & Dakshin Rai

The Nile is famous for the Nile Crocodiles and the ancient Egyptians worshipped crocodile as god Sobek. The crocodile, although feared, was venerated and given a place in the temple of Kom Ombo, beside which there is now a Crocodile Museum showcasing the relevance of crocodiles in ancient Egypt with its large collection of mummified crocodiles. The worship was to please Sobek and pray so that he would not harm anyone. I saw this as an extension of the people of the Indian Sundarbans (West Bengal, India) worshipping the Royal Bengal Tiger in the form of Dakshin Rai (Lord of the South). Dakshin Rai is greatly feared in the delta but also worshipped along with Bon Bibi (guardian spirit of the forest) to not harm the people who venture into the forest for crab and honey collection. Separated by thousands of miles and years, the similarity in the belief of the two deltaic civilizations fascinated me.

Had DECCMA not happened to me, I would not have enjoyed my holiday the way I did – taking down notes on my phone, doing some online reading, drawing parallels across deltas, and wondering about things which would not have occurred to me otherwise. On learning about the tomb raiders I had a thought with which I shall end this post. The Great Pyramid of Giza and most of the tombs in the Valley of Kings have been wiped clean of artefacts and treasures which were believed to be there as was the ancient Egyptian custom to help the deceased continue onto the next life. I would like to believe that the tomb raiders who took these objects were in need of the money or wanted luxury and concentrated only on their immediate present which made them overlook the fact that their act was depriving hundreds of generations from witnessing a magnificent past of Egypt. Let us not be the tomb raiders for our future generations. We can do our little bits to not exploit the environment to meet our immediate needs and luxuries so that we do not deprive the future generations from witnessing a clean, healthy, and beautiful Earth.

[1] R. A. Beddis. The Aswan High Dam and the resettlement of the Nubian people. Geography 1963; 48(1): 79.

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Do writeshops work…?

By Jon Lawn

Do writeshops work…?

…this was my first thought when the idea was floated! Do we really need to take people away to get them to concentrate on their work? I soon found out we do!

Despite my initial scepticism, the DECCMA Northern Team Writeshop has been a great success.  We have gathered colleagues from around the country (and some from further afield), who would’t usually have the time to sit together for three days. Situated in a picturesque village in the New Forest, we are surrounded by delightful English countryside and autumnal colours. Stick your head outdoors and you hear birdsong and smell the rustic smell of an open fire.  Look around and you see ponies, cattle and birds. Peace at last!

The silence in our meeting room is unnerving.  I am so used to DECCMA meetings being full of talk, presentations, lively discussion and debate – this eerie quiet reminds me of an exam hall.  All I hear hour after hour is the gentle ‘tap tap’ of fingers on keyboards and occasional hushed whispers of collaborators discussing how many words they’ve written and the order of paragraphs. ‘Are they really working’ I think…?

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Regular gatherings and updates from the team prove my continued scepticism to be unfounded.  Thousands upon thousands of words have been written, entire papers have gone through multiple reviews with ‘track changes’ an essential companion.  Thoughts have changed and evolved, analyses have developed and clarity has been sought.  The amount and speed of progress is amazing.  Papers have gone from being a mere idea and structure to almost complete.

We punctuate our writing sessions with forays into the damp countryside – some fresh air to revive frazzled brains and to invigorate the soul.  Topics of conversation enlighten each other on progress and share trains of thought – with valuable contributions and insightful comments received in return. Even the drizzle doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm for ploughing on, both with the walks, and with the writing.

I will admit to be unnerved about the lack of agenda items going into this meeting.  With the majority of the sessions titled ‘Writing Session’ with the instruction ‘Self-Organise’ next to it – my usual planning and control of meetings is removed. There are no presentations to prepare and no minutes to write! When asked in our introductory session about my goals for the meeting, my reply is simply “to make sure you guys write stuff!”

The dedicated time given to writing is key. Providing an environment where academics and researchers aren’t disturbed by the busyness and demands of an office environment is proving efficient.  Email is not banned (although I contemplated withholding the WiFi password!) – but self-control and discipline is displayed, and even encouraged, by the participants. They have grasped and bought into the ethos of the writeshop, and in many cases appear to crave the quiet, uninterrupted time to put their head down and focus solely on one area of analysis.

So what’s the key to an effective writeshop?

Planning in advance – there is no point having people sitting around for three days with nothing to write!  Participants must come with goals in mind, and a clean schedule to devote time and effort to the cause.  We asked the team to complete templates, stating the papers they would be working on and with whom they needed to collaborate – both on writing and reviewing.  This planning forced the team to focus in advance, and not just turn up with no idea what was going on.

Variability is also important.  I found you should not overestimate the concentration span of a person – to get someone to focus on one activity for an entire day is unrealistic! More than an hour is pushing it for the average person.  Hence we built in times where we went for walks, ate lunch together in a different location and generally made purposeful attempts to switch our focus to different tasks to provide intervals and a change of pace.

Within the variability we also provided flexibility. I was amazed on Day 1 that these grown-ups kept asking me for permission. ‘Can I work on this task Jon?’, ‘Can I not go for the walk now as I’m in the zone Jon?’, ‘Jon, can I pop out and get a coffee/go for a run/phone home?’. It was obvious I was the keeper of the meeting!  But, in all reality, we aimed to provide an environment that was best for people to work, and this would be different for different individuals.  My response to (virtually) every request was ‘sure, whatever works best for you’.

We have seen a real step change in the amount of writing achieved during these three days. Plans have already been mooted to continue the momentum next year.

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2nd round of District Level Stakeholder Workshop, Bhadrak (Mahanadi Delta)

The second round of district level stakeholder workshop for the Mahanadi Delta was jointly organized by Chilika Development Authority and Sansristi on 12th September, 2017 at Bhadrak. Jadavpur University and Centre for Environment and Development provided technical inputs and guided in the planning process. The objectives of the workshop were –

  • Share DECCMA’s findings with respect to the work packages and seek stakeholders’ comments and observations 
  • Seek stakeholder feedback regarding Barriers to Policy implementation & Criteria for Successful Adaptation

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The participants in the workshop were from government departments, Banks, Universities, NGOs, CBOs, and SHGs. There were a total of 33 participants comprising 23 men and 10 women.

DECCMA was introduced and its objectives were shared. Following this, the findings from the project were shared with respect to governance analysis, risk, hazard, multi-hazard, net migration maps, household survey, and adaptation examples taking place in the DECCMA study area of the Mahanadi Delta. The findings were shared firstly at the study area level and then concentrated on the Bhadrak district for evoking better responses from stakeholders.

Barriers to Policy Implementation and Criteria for Successful Adaptation surveys were conducted. The questionnaires were translated into local language Odia and participants were handed out either the English version or Odia version depending on their preferences. The analyses of these surveys are currently being carried out by the team.

Insights were gained from stakeholders on the effects of climate change, vulnerability, migration and adaptation taking place in the Puri district of the Mahanadi Delta. Some key responses are as follows :

–         In migration and Out migration of the various blocks of the district have different reasons (eg Basudevpur and Chandbali). Seasonal migration needs to be captured.

–         The movement of men and women are different. The destination is generally Gujarat and South (Kerala). Young girls are also migrating independently to work in garment factories.

–          Fishing has been restricted for the Dhamra port, which in turn is affecting the livelihood of the people. This leads to migration.

–          To boost agriculture, many initiatives are being taken by the Govt department of Agriculture such as provision of crop insurance, supporting crop diversification, saline tolerant paddy supply, appointment of female agriculture officers, extension work  etc

–          Plantation of mangrove can reduce the cyclonic effect in coastal areas but it needs to be taken up by the communities in a large scale.

–          In pre disaster preparedness programmes, participation of women is good. In Flood/ Cyclone Shelter Management committees one third members are women.

–          In micro planning for livelihood (under Livelihood Mission), disaster is not specifically factored in.

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One village above water, another below

by Md. Saiful Islam (Sourav)

I got the chance to work for RMMRU and through this organisation, I was able to visit many places that I have never been before. I visited these places for my research work which allowed me to visit many rural places. This was my first opportunity to learn first hand about nature, climate change and life in these regions.

I was surprised when I saw village people surviving day by day for their livelihood or family. Two villages were divided by a road, one village is still under water and another is more developed. That village is still underwater because of the environmental situation and its location near the river.

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I was also surprised when I saw a mother with three sons. One son was an AGM at the Bangladesh Bank, another was a Supreme Court advocate and the third was a businessman. They don’t contribute to their family at all – not even to their mother. They don’t help financially – not even a single taka. To hear that was very difficult and it never stops to bring tears to my eyes. Some people never build or construct a building because of the cyclone of the floor. This is because these types of events keep happening. They know that if they build a house this month that next month another cyclone or flood may come. What is the point?

To sum it up, I learnt a lot during my visits to these places. One question always returns to me: how do people live? How do they survive? But still, they do survive. They are the actual fighter.

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