Resilient Bangladesh: Fishermen Cope with Rough Seas

Both inland and by the shore, today’s changing climate is impacting the daily lives of the people of Bangladesh. Out of necessity, Bangladeshis are beginning to adapt by implementing traditional knowledge and practices, through self innovation and with the help of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations.

Worldwide, to varying degrees, we are all in the process of learning how to adapt to environmental changes. The front-line experience of Bangladesh will provide useful insight into the many challenges that will affect more and more places in the future.

This week, in honour of Bangladesh National Day (March 26), we bring to you a series of three video briefs that showcase the resilient Bangladeshi spirit in coping with these potentially devastating changes. These stories also provide a glimpse of how the United Nations University is working with NGOs to create a platform of knowledge sharing for climate change adaptation.

At-risk Bangladesh

On our warming planet, Bangladesh is considered to be one of the 12 highest climate-risk countries in the world. It regularly faces all of the five main identified threats that arise from climate change: droughts, floods, storms, rising sea levels, and greater uncertainty in agriculture. In particular, Bangladesh tops the list in flood disasters because it is situated in the low-lying Ganges–Brahmaputra River Delta that is formed by the confluence of three rivers and their respective tributaries, which include run-offs from the melting Himalayan glaciers.

Bangladesh — and many of the other countries on the high-risk list — are increasingly facing such hazards, despite the fact that their contribution to the world’s carbon emissions is minuscule, even in comparison to many developing nations.

On top of these climate impacts, Bangladesh is one of the most population dense countries in the world and ranks 147 out of 179 on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (PDF). The list assesses a country’s achievement in terms of human development in areas like health, education and gender equality, and not just GDP growth.

The effects of climate change are exacerbating Bangladesh’s existing problems — health, poverty, land erosion and natural disasters. At sea, the waters are getting rougher and the frequency of tropical cyclones is increasing. On land, the rain patterns are erratic, day and night temperatures fluctuate dramatically, and the country is plagued by both drought and flood.

While 80 percent of Bangladeshis live in rural areas and 54 percent work in agriculture, more and more farmers can no longer make ends meet and have begun to migrate to the bigger cities and other countries in search of a better life.

Bangladeshis are not resigned to climate change doom, but instead have become active leaders in adaptation.

However, the Bangladeshis are not resigned to climate change doom, but instead have become active leaders in adaptation.  In 2008, the national government published a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (PDF).

The country has already begun to prepare for the inevitable and irreplaceable effects of climate change. In some communities, education and awareness-raising has begun in schools. For those who live along the coast, homes are built to withstand 100 km typhoon winds and sit upon raised foundations to stave off rising waters during flooding. In addition, farmers are planting saline resistant crops that can withstand the salt water floods that plague their lands.

Ultimately, adaptation is not the longer-term solution for climate change. It has its limitations. A focus on reducing our green house gas emissions must be prioritized. In the mean time, as we’ll see in this video brief series, the people of Bangladesh are doing all they can to adapt.

Coping with rougher seas

In our first video brief, embedded at top of this page, fishermen in the Ganges-Brahmaputra River Delta are suffering some of the consequences of global climate change. For hundreds of years their traditional boats have been strong enough to fish in the Bay of Bengal.

However, today, this is no longer true. Fishermen are increasingly faced with stronger storms and rougher seas. Every time they set out to the sea to fish, they gamble with their own lives.

We met with Mohammed Illias, who has fished the waters of Magna River since he was 12. To better support his family, he saved money to purchase his own boat. However, in 2008, he and 10 other fishermen were caught in a terrible storm. The boat was badly damaged and began to sink. Luckily, all of the fisherman on-board survived.

With the help of local and international NGOs, Mohammed was able to restore his boat. By reinforcing the foundation with steel bars, his boat was made stronger. He feels confident that his boat will now be able to withstand the rough waves. As an added result, the boat now allows him travel further out into the sea and increase his catch.

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For more details on the challenges a changing climate poses for Bangladeshis, please see the second and third parts of the series. This collection of stories aims to highlight the resiliency of the people of Bangladesh, as well of the importance of community-level adaptation in facing climate change.

Creative Commons License
Resilient Bangladesh: Fishermen Cope With Rough Seas by Megumi Nishikura is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Author

Megumi Nishikura’s life purpose is to use the power of media to enlighten and inspire individuals to make choices that build a more positive sustainable world. She has been producing documentary films addressing global issues since 2003.

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  • Guest

    Its good to watch Bangladesh in Our World2.0. Though I am from Cox’sBazar (where the longest natural sea-beach of the world is located) in Bangladesh, the picture would be quite similar in other parts as can be seen from the documentary. Bangladesh is called a land of river, as it comprises the biggest natural delta of the world. People’s livelihood has great dependence on water and rivers. It has been estimated that the coastal regions, though contribute lion share in the country’s economy, have been suffering from socio-economic vulnerability from climate change and natural events more than other inland parts of the country. This kind of renovation works, as can be seen from the documentary, can help people a great deal in coping with the changing environment. Actually research has rarely been challenged to provide solutions to the bigger problems humanity has faced, whereas such kind of problems can greatly be alleviated by dissemination of privileges which needs a good administration, though not necessarily a strong innovation mechanism. This is where the power of media can work altogether to make happen those bigger supports. I hope OurWorld2.0 will continue such activities and contribute in overall socio-economic development.

  • marufhossain

    Its good to watch Bangladesh in Our World2.0. Though I am from Cox’sBazar (where the longest natural sea-beach of the world is located) in Bangladesh, the picture would be quite similar in other parts as can be seen from the documentary. Bangladesh is called a land of river, as it comprises the biggest natural delta of the world. People’s livelihood has great dependence on water and rivers. It has been estimated that the coastal regions, though contribute lion share in the country’s economy, have been suffering from socio-economic vulnerability from climate change and natural events more than other inland parts of the country. This kind of renovation works, as can be seen from the documentary, can help people a great deal in coping with the changing environment. Actually research has rarely been challenged to provide solutions to the bigger problems humanity has faced, whereas such kind of problems can greatly be alleviated by dissemination of privileges which needs a good administration, though not necessarily a strong innovation mechanism. This is where the power of media can work altogether to make happen those bigger supports. I hope OurWorld2.0 will continue such activities and contribute in overall socio-economic development.

    A. M. M. Maruf Hossain

  • karen99

    Is this where we are now? Just trying to adapt instead of fix the problems? Does it make the situation worse that this region of the world [india, china] are very big polluters themselves?

    • http://www.azsolarconcepts.com/ Samuel Rogers

      Unfortunately, that is how much of the world lives their lives. Adapt, but don’t care and don’t fix. Put duct tape on it and go have a burger or some candy. It’ll be ok.

  • http://www.1800cabletv.com/ Tom

    “A focus on reducing our green house gas emissions must be prioritized…”- simply walking/ biking instead of driving or powering our cable tv and other home services with solar energy can make a difference.

  • http://unlockyourdollar.blogspot.com Amazon Filler

    I am not sure how to stop China and India from polluting, except through an increase in economic prosperity.

  • http://www.undertheclassifieds.com/ classified sites

    Its
    great to watch Bangladesh in Our World2.0. AlthoughI’m from Cox’sBazar (exactly where the longest natural sea-beach
    of the globe is situated) in Bangladesh, the picture could bereally comparable in other parts as might be noticed
    from the documentary. Bangladesh is named a land of river, as it
    comprises the greatest natural delta of the globe. People’s
    livelihood has wonderful dependence on water and rivers. It has been
    estimated that the coastal regions, although contribute lion share inside
    the country’s economy, have been suffering from socio-economic vulnerability
    from climate alter and natural events a lot more than other
    inland parts of the nation. This type of renovation works, as may
    be noticed from the documentary, can aid folks a
    terrific deal in coping using the altering environment. Reallyanalysis has rarely been challenged to offer solutions towards
    the larger issues humanity has faced, whereas such type
    of troubles can tremendously be alleviated by dissemination of
    privileges which wants an excellent administration, although
    not necessarily a powerful innovation mechanism. This really is exactly
    where the power of media can function altogether to create take
    place those larger supports. I hope OurWorld2.0 will continue such
    activities and contribute in overall socio-economic development. 

  • http://www.bluekamagra.com Kamagra

    Some had managed to return to shore, while the rough sea had claimed
    one. “Dada, the life of fishermen in Bengal is at stake today, and
    fishing has become a …
     

  • isabelamariehobson

    I guess there’s nothing more for people to do but to adapt to the environment they are living in today. And I guess this will be a wake up call for all of us to take care of our Earth.

  • http://au.linkedin.com/in/jimcassa black magic

    great
    so informative to view this country, Bangladesh in Our World2.0. I live in Australia, but I feel for the county Bangladesh and its citizens.
    This is a fantastic documentary on all features of the problems the people encounter in the environment.
    I am all for support of the natural delta, and to keep supporting the fisherman in any way that is possible. You see it is a hard job, I use to fish many years ago, so I know what I am talking about. But I want there to be sustainable fishing, not flat out pillage of the ocean marine life. This is the way to go, in my humble opinion, and as far as fishing in a poor country with lots of problems, it is far more sustainable.
    Jobs are important to keep, and so is the well being of the environment.
    Altering the environment fails to pay off in the long term, since human beings cannot beat mother nature. Let us all remember this important fact.

  • http://www.tigarielectronice-nr1.ro/ Tigari electronice

    Bangladesh is a great place, a lovely place, perfectly for a fairy tale if you ask me. It’s horrible that wonderful places like this are the most vulnerable, those places are filled up with problems, tears and poverty. I really hope someday the people will understand these things and take more care of the environment, help the poor and so on, there are a lot of changes that need to be done.

  • http://www.primeeducation.com.au/ English

    Bangladesh is no longer poor now, there are many changes were made in past in current too, that’s a good news for the Bangladesh and for the other countries too.

  • http://www.proboatparts.com/boat-parts/ efrenwyman

    It is really great that your boat is enough stronger that it can be operated during worst climate. Here I get such useful details about Bangladesh’s climate.