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Shifting Waves – Tale of Climate migrants in Chittagong

Joy Das is a son of a traditional local fisherman living in the coast of Chittagong, Bangladesh. He helps his father in fishing but his main passion is playing football, but he was afraid that he will not be able to become a professional footballer as his family wouldn’t be able to support his football dreams as a family of fisherman living on a very small amount of money each month. He was practicing at the beach during afternoon after completing his daily tasks of helping his father. Date: 28/7/2018

My ongoing project “Shifting Waves” focuses on the critical social justice issues affecting the coastal regions of my home city Chittagong, in relation to climate change, the influx of climate migrants from other parts of Bangladesh, and unplanned urbanization, industrialization and how these issues are interacting with each other in the overall socio- economic aspects of my home city.

Bangladesh is badly facing a lack of decentralization of resources, this is why the capital city of Dhaka is over flooded with the population boom. Now my home city, Chittagong, is also being flooded with huge waves of migrants; especially climate migrants, as this is the only major seaport city of Bangladesh and thus Chittagong is the second most important economic hub after the capital city of Dhaka. Moreover, in Dhaka, competition for livelihood is pretty high, and the cost of living is significantly higher than in Chittagong. For these reasons, a huge number of climate migrants are choosing Chittagong over the capital city of Dhaka in search of livelihood and shelter.

But Chittagong city itself is hugely challenged by climate change issues as a coastal seaport, and this city is also burdened by unplanned urbanization and rapid industrialization. For my project, I have chosen Chittagong city not just because this is my home city but because this city’s transformation story is dynamic and allows us to understand the relation among climate justice, migration, and urbanization very precisely in the context of a developing country like Bangladesh, which is also one of the frontline countries of climate change threats.

A migrant fisherman was going back to his makeshift shelter with carrying huge load of fishing nets at Chittagong, Bangladesh, Fishermen like him usually migrate to different parts of the coastal areas especially during the Hilsha fishing season in Bangladesh. The livelihood of these migrant fishermen has been affected badly due to the climate change issues. The availability of fishing is dependent upon the factors temperature of the sea and the raining pattern. All of these know climate pattern has been changes in Bangladesh recently because of the ongoing climate change. Date:

According to a NASA report of 2017, Chittagong is one of the 293 major port cities in the world that may go under the water within the next 100 years because of rising sea levels. Moreover, erratic rainfall is badly disturbing the livelihoods of the local fishermen.
Communities of Chittagong, who are dependent upon fishing as their family tradition. Because of erratic rainfall, the local fishing community is also losing its scope of livelihood as the availability of fish is dependent upon the rainfall pattern. The incoming climate migrant population is making the situation more complex as the scope of the livelihood is shrinking both for the locals and the climate migrants. Thus, both traditional fishing communities and climate migrants are being forced to find alternative livelihoods, such as working as laborers in the industrial zones.

Being one of the fastest growing cities of South Asia, Chittagong is rapidly urbanizing and industrializing, but in a very unplanned manner, which is posing more risks towards the management of climate vulnerable local and migrant communities.

Ruhul Amin (15) was working in a vegetable field near Anandabazar dumping yard in Chittagong, where he was working as a labourer. His family came to Chittagong about five years ago from Nilphamari district of North Bengal in search of work. They had agricultural land in Nilphamari but the income from the crops grown on that land was not enough for their family. Currently, the owner’s vegetable field where he works is next to a garbage dump, making it very difficult for him to work, and even the water supplied to the vegetable field is highly polluted and completely black in color. He was reminiscing about the vegetable fields of his village home that he had seen when he was a child and said that they used to cultivate there with clear water from the river, but the water here was totally polluted in comparison. Date: 26/4/2023

My most important relationship with the topic is that I belong to the vulnerable society that is being built upon the tension between the local community and the climate migrants. As a photographer and journalist, I always believed in reporting from the community and reporting for the sake of the community, thus, the issue of climate migration, the changing socio-economic landscape due to climate change, and climate migration in my city are important stories to tell from my stance.

My goal is not just to facilitate my own local community through my story and activism, but my overall goal is to motivate both my local community and the climate migrant community to take collective and cooperative actions towards resilience and mitigation and to raise their collective voice towards planned industrialization & urbanization, so that there would be less threat towards the worsening of the climate situations in my home city.

As the Bay of Bengal’s official fishing season concludes, migrant fishermen are bringing back sturdy iron pipes to their makeshift houses from their trawlers. These pipes play a crucial role in preventing fishing nets from snagging on the trawler’s fuselage, ensuring smoother fishing. Originally from Bhola and Laksmipur districts, these fishermen moved to the Chittagong region due to river erosion, losing their homes. Now, after the fishing season, they return to their makeshift houses, working as day laborers until the next season begins. Date: 24/11/2023
The urban herder finding solitude in the remains of the nature! It was on the coast of the Bay of Bengal where heavy construction works are going on everywhere surrounding this place, as a consequence of urbanization. Some people still herd their cattle in the very small remains of the nature there. Date: 28/11/2018
Kashem is an elderly migrant worker who collects garbage from the dumping yard nearby the bay of Bengal and resells plastic items from there. It was almost 40 degree Celsius & he was exhausted while working in such hot and humid weather. Bangladesh is facing such harsh summer days due to the climate change. Date: 19/7/2018
Climate migrant working as herderSalauddin’s family faced the harsh reality of river erosion in Bhola, compelling them to uproot their lives and move to Chittagong during his adolescence. Their home and land succumbed to the relentless forces of water. In their new surroundings, Salauddin now makes a living by tending to the buffalo of others. Date: 11/11/2023
Tuhin’s family moved to Chittagong from Bhola as their house was destroyed due to river erosion. Tuhin was reminiscing his early childhood memories of Bhola. Date: 26/7/2022
Migrant worker working in construction site on the bank of Bay of Bengal in Chittagong. Date: 11/11/2023
A young lady was running for finding a shelter when it was about to start raining on the beach in Chittagong, Bangladesh. She was visiting beach with her family during a sunny day but within a short time the sky became clouded and it was almost about to rain heavily. Due to ongoing changing of the climate the weather has become difficult to predict, sometimes it starts to rain like this. Date: 22/07/2022
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Kazi Riasat Alve

Kazi Riasat Alve, 1990, is a Bangladesh based photographer, at first he majored in Marketing and communication studies but he always had a vision… More »

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