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Bangladesh’s Battle Against Climate Change

A Nation at Risk

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, is a bustling metropolis known for its vibrant culture and dynamic economy. One of the most striking aspects of Dhaka is its staggering population density. With over 8 million people crammed into just 306 square kilometers, Dhaka is one of the world’s most densely populated cities. This density brings both opportunities and challenges. On one hand, it fosters a diverse and energetic atmosphere that drives economic growth and cultural exchange. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, with its maze of rivers and rich culture, faces the stark challenge of climate change. Despite being roughly the size of Iowa, it houses over 160 million people, making it highly susceptible to climate alterations. With its geography dominated by river deltas, notably the Ganges and Brahmaputra, it is a prime candidate for flooding. As temperatures soar globally, sea levels rise, threatening to engulf vast lands, displacing millions, and jeopardizing cities like Dhaka.

In Gabura, a representation of the country’s vulnerability, the 2009 cyclone “Aila” left an indelible mark. Thousands were affected, losing homes and livestock. In the aftermath, survivors grappled with the havoc and prolonged displacement. The cyclone-induced salinity tainted drinking water sources and rendered lands infertile.

The Dhaka City leads to significant infrastructural and environmental pressures, including traffic congestion and pollution, which the city grapples with daily. Climate change has added another layer of complexity to Dhaka’s demographic dynamics. Rising sea levels, more frequent cyclones, and erratic weather patterns have made life increasingly precarious in climate-prone areas of Bangladesh. As a result, a steady influx of people from these regions is migrating to Dhaka in search of employment opportunities. The city, already bursting at the seams, needs help accommodating this influx, leading to informal settlements and overburdened public services. This influx highlights the urgent need for sustainable urban planning, climate resilience, and job creation efforts in Dhaka to address the challenges posed by its population density and climate-induced migration. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Climate change does not just influence natural phenomena; it alters lifestyles. With lands saline, fishing communities near Sundarbans have shifted from traditional livelihoods to catching young shrimps, impacting marine biodiversity. Salinity brings health concerns such as potential uterus cancer, skin issues, and fertility challenges. Traditional fish have become rarer, leading to job losses and increased migration.

Shrimp farming, though profitable, has its repercussions. Driven by its position as a top global prawn producer, the industry, unfortunately, takes a toll on the environment with chemical usage and unsustainable practices. Salinity levels, ironically, pose risks to this thriving sector.

The Mawa area, situated in the Munshiganj district near Dhaka, Bangladesh, is grappling with a critical issue of river erosion. The region is flanked by several major rivers, including the Padma and the Arial Khan, which have been eroding their banks at an alarming rate. River erosion in this area has become a persistent threat, causing the loss of valuable agricultural land, homesteads, and infrastructure. This ongoing erosion has led to the displacement of many families who have seen their homes and livelihoods washed away by the relentless force of the rivers. Efforts to combat this issue often involve the construction of dams and other protective measures. Still, the battle against river erosion remains an ongoing and challenging struggle for the communities in the Mawa area. Addressing this problem requires comprehensive strategies that consider both short-term relief and long-term sustainable solutions to mitigate the devastating impact of river erosion on the region’s residents and their way of life. Mawa, Munshiganj, Bangladesh

Recognizing the magnitude of the threat, the Bangladeshi government has taken proactive steps. Cyclone shelters, early warning systems, and innovative agricultural approaches, such as drought-resistant crops, have been introduced. Emphasizing renewable energy, particularly solar, lessens deforestation pressures. On the global stage, Bangladesh seeks partnerships for climate adaptation and protection against rising sea levels.

Bangladesh’s fight against climate change underscores a universal challenge. The nation stands as a testament to the immediate need for global action. Reducing emissions and bolstering frontline defenders against climate change, like Bangladesh, is essential for preserving the planet’s diverse landscapes and communities.

Climate migration from the Sundarbans area to major cities in Bangladesh, particularly Dhaka, has been a growing phenomenon driven by the adverse effects of climate change. The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s largest mangrove forest, faces rising sea levels, increased salinity, and more frequent cyclones due to climate change. As these environmental pressures intensify, many residents of this ecologically sensitive region are compelled to leave their homes for better opportunities and safety. Dhaka, the country’s economic hub, attracts a significant portion of these climate migrants. However, the rapid influx of people into already densely populated urban areas like Dhaka poses substantial challenges, including strain on infrastructure, housing, and public services. Satkhira, Bangladesh
“When my husband, Ruhul Amin Seikh, goes fishing, I wait for him by the river’s edge. Some days, when I do not feel sick, I join him in our small boat. I can barely support my husband as I am aging and suffering from diseases. Our children are separated. They have their families and are no longer able to provide for us. The forest is no longer providing us with food. After spending hours in the river, my husband returns with a few fish. We can hardly sell fish for 80 Taka (1 USD) daily. We starve or eat once as we grow older. Water is saltier than ever; our house is still broken after the cyclone, and now the coronavirus is killing us. We have almost no food for the coming days. We remain hungry; we remain thirsty.” – Fatema Khatun. Gabura, Satkhira, Bangladesh
Gabura Union, situated in the southwestern region of Bangladesh near the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, faces a dire threat as scientists predict that it could be submerged by the year 2025 due to the impacts of climate change. This area, characterized by low-lying coastal terrain, is exceptionally vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surges. The rising sea levels, exacerbated by global warming, have already resulted in significant land erosion and the displacement of local communities. According to scientific studies and reports, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the situation in Gabura Union is dire, and urgent measures are required to mitigate the impending crisis. Efforts to combat this issue include the construction of protective barriers and the promotion of climate-resilient practices, but the challenge remains substantial. The plight of the Gabura Union is a stark reminder of the profound and devastating impacts of climate change, particularly in coastal regions. It underscores the urgency of global efforts to mitigate its effects. Gabura, Satkhira, Bangladesh
“After eleven days of cyclone Amphan, my daughter was born. We had no electricity, no food, and no drop of drinking water. My husband could not go fishing in the river because of the lockdown in coronavirus. Since then, my husband could hardly manage permission to enter the jungle. I got married when I was fifteen in the aftermath of another cyclone. Every year, at least twice, our house has been destroyed in cyclones, tornados, or storms. We suffered terribly from drinking water as every year salinity is increasing. Now, my husband and I eat once daily. During the lockdown, I hardly ate as there was no food. My youngest child is now six months old; she is severely underweight. What could we do? I have to first give food to my father-in-law and mother-in-law, who are in their nineties. And then I feed our children; if we have something left, my husband and I will have it. There is nothing in our food storage. Today, we only have one kilogram of rice, a few onions, garlic, and vegetable leaves. I have nothing to cook tomorrow.” – Marzina Begum. Satkhira, Bangladesh
Southwestern Bangladesh grapples with a significant scarcity of safe drinking water. The region is prone to salinity intrusion due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal, making the groundwater increasingly salty and undrinkable. This situation has dire consequences for the local population, as access to clean and safe drinking water is essential for human health and well-being. Many communities in Satkhira are forced to rely on rainwater harvesting systems and surface water, which can be contaminated, leading to waterborne diseases. Addressing the issue of safe drinking water scarcity in Satkhira requires innovative solutions, including desalination technologies and improved water management practices, to ensure that the residents have access to a vital resource for their daily lives. Satkhira, Bangladesh
“We are left with one bucket of rice and some vegetables for our twenty-one members’ family. Since the virus hit, we are no longer allowed to go fishing. I entered the jungle for only seven days in the last seven months. My sons are trying to work as laborers now. But there is very little work now. Our lands went into the river, and with every passing year, calamities are hitting us hard. There is little drinkable water left in the area, and now, the devastation of this pandemic will kill us with food scarcity. Our children are hungry all the time. When again will we be able to eat a proper meal? We do not have any idea?” – Motiar Rahman Gazi. Satkhira, Bangladesh
Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to its adverse effects. The key challenges are rising sea levels, increased salinity in coastal areas, more frequent cyclones, and erratic rainfall patterns. These impacts lead to displacement, food and water scarcity, and significant economic losses, especially in agriculture and fisheries. Bangladesh actively pursues climate adaptation and mitigation strategies to mitigate these effects and build resilience. However, the road ahead remains challenging as the country grapples with climate change’s consequences. It underscores the urgent need for global cooperation to combat climate change and support vulnerable nations like Bangladesh to adapt to this rapidly evolving environmental crisis. Satkhira, Bangladesh
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Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

Mohammad Rakibul Hasan is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based documentary photographer, filmmaker, visual artist, and art educator. His work explores human rights, social development, politics, the environment, and spirituality. Hasan was nominated for many international awards and won hundreds of photographic competitions worldwide, including the Lucie Award, One World Media Awards, Human Rights Press Award, and Allard Prize. His photography projects have been exhibited in Photo Basel, Shanghai Photo Festival, NordArt Festival, Berlin Photo Festival, Belgrade Photo Month Festival, Indian Photo Festival, and many other galleries worldwide. He pursued a One-Year Certificate in Creative Practices at the ICP – International Center of Photography (USA). Hasan holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Photography from Falmouth University and an Undergraduate Certificate in Art History and Philosophy from Oxford University (UK). He also pursued a Postgraduate Diploma in Photojournalism from Ateneo de Manila University (the Philippines) and graduated in Film & Video Production from UBS Film School at the University of Sydney (Australia) and received a BA (Honors) in Photography from Falmouth University (UK). Hasan works as a visual journalist for the ZUMA Press, Redux Pictures, Inter Press Service (IPS), and Thomson Reuters Foundation. He is a consultant photographer and filmmaker for the WHO, UN Women, Oxfam, Red Cross, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, ActionAid, WaterAid, and many other international non-profit organizations. The °CLAIR Galerie, Switzerland, represents his artworks. He is a Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Fellow and was a former TEDx speaker. He is a 2022 Oxford Climate Journalism Network (OCJN) fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. Hasan is pursuing an MA in Photography at Falmouth University via distance learning.

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