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How to build a climate resilient migrant friendly town

  • Published at 04:46 pm December 8th, 2019
Climate Tribune_November 2019_Pg 9-11_How to build a climate resilient migrant friendly town
Photo: Sumaiya

Learnings from Mongla Study

Climate Induced Migration(CIM) Project by PROKAS is a piloting action research project, where ICCCAD-CIM team has been working to identify the prospect of developing Mongla Town as a secondary city of preference for migrants rather than choosing mega cities ie Dhaka, Chittagong as their first destinations. The study identified the current problems and challenges faced by Mongla Port Municipality especially in their access to Education, Health and Housing. Understanding the research findings, stakeholders came up with their own solutions and action plans to build their city climate resilient and migrant friendly by installing quality education, health and housing as well as ensuring freshwater available for all the city dwellers.

People started coming to Mongla since 1952 after the establishment of the Chalna anchorage. The history of Mongla reveals that a lot of people came to Mongla from Noakhali and Chittagong, and most of them have come due to increased employment opportunities at the port, the study also identified the prospect of Climate Migrants coming to Mongla, and the current capacity of the town to provide migrants with facilities as well as the perspective of the town holding a larger influx of migrants in the future.

Education

The average literacy in Mongla is 57.20 percent with male 58.90 percent and female 55.30 percent (Upazila Profile Mongla). There are a total of 48 schools and colleges in the Town. Despite the presence of sufficient number of educational institutions, the respondents feel that there is an absence of quality education in Mongla town. 

The locals feel that recruitment of poor-quality teachers, absence of trained subject-wise teachers and sufficient teaching materials in schools and colleges are disrupting the quality of education. Lack of access to affordable quality schools, vocational and academic training opportunities are a cause of disappointment among the youth community. Around two-thirds of students commute daily from rural areas and adjacent Upazilas of Mongla. They often face difficulty to reach class on time during summer and monsoon due to lack of affordable transport facilities. 

School dropout is a prevailing problem for both young boys and girls. During the months of June and July, when the availability of labour work decrease, seasonal labourers move out of Mongla along with their children to other towns decreasing the student count in classes compared to the beginning of the school year. Students who passed the SSC, around 30 percent of them move to either Dhaka or Khulna for better education services. Moreover social problems in the low income households result in drug addiction problem amongst youth  aged 18-25. Many teenage boys and girls drop out of school to pursue work in fishing activities or EPZ.

Locals feel that a few steps must be taken to ensure quality education. Initiatives should be taken to establish a public university, marine training center and a medical college,  Technical educational institutions so that students will not require to go outside for higher education; Student-Teacher ratio and class sizes need to be as per the education policy at both primary and secondary level; psychological development of the students must be emphasised and necessary steps must be taken to create facilities of outdoor games and physical activities;  Secured and affordable hostel facilities should be provided to attract young students from the village especially for girls who need to commute several kilometers every day. Housing should be provided for the teachers to incentivize them to stay in the town; Transport facilities, stipends and lunch should be provided for students; Proper and continuous training of teachers and school staff; Increase awareness among parents about the importance of education. 

Health

Feedback from local respondent of Mongla urged that the current health facility of Mongla is insufficient. Lack of good private and public hospitals remains a problem. Most of the hospitals and health centre in the Town lack diagnostic child care and maternal health facilities. The hospitals are not properly equipped for pre/post natal care or C-sections. With limited health facilities, especially inadequate primary health care available, critical patients must be referred to Khulna for treatment. 

Currently, Mongla Town has an Upazila Health Complex (UHC), St. Paul hospital two private clinics and some other health facilities managed by EPZ, Port Authority and Bangladesh Navy. Every Friday MBBS doctors of Khulna Hospitals comes to visit Sheba clinic or their private chambers in the Municipality to offer consultation to the locals. The Mongla River bisects the Municipality, and boats providing transport and connection for the two sides, making it difficult to go to the doctor during an emergency.

The local respondents strongly believe that due to their lack of access to potable water, their exposure to the number of waterborne diseases are high. Moreover, this challenge is exacerbated due to the absence of improved hospital, poor diagnostic facilities, inadequate doctors and medical staff. Locals strongly feel that the following services need to be ensured for quality health in the Town; Access to health Service; Increased awareness for better health and sanitation practice; Good number of specialized doctors and medical staff to ensure that hospitals can function to capacity; Better monitoring and accountability amongst health workers and medical staff; Investment in the infrastructural system to improve the capacity of the local UHC as well as bring new and improved medical facilities for the town.

Housing

Accomodation for low income population is a great concern among the inhabitants. Many are living in the slum areas without proper water and sanitation facilities. Moreover these people are facing difficulty to get housing loan. Previously a housing plan for 485 houses failed, as the plan had neglected to incorporate bathrooms in the design. This led to houses being built without bathrooms. Such failures are more reasons for government, slum dwellers and private sectors learn and step up their planning designs for sustainable housing. To ensure proper housing UNO, Chairman of Upazila, Union Parishad, Local MP, Navy, Upazila Prokolpo Karmokorta and public representator, Engineer (govt., NGOs and Private), some private industries, Local Commissioners, Local Government, relevant ministries need to come forward.

Currently the drainage facility in the wards of Mongla Municipality is not proficient, Yet due to the interventions of the Mayor of Mongla (in upgrading some of the roads and drains in the slum areas of the municipality) in  most of the ward water logging problem has been reduced. 

A large number of students are suffering due to lack of dormitory facilities. To minimize this problem business,local elites and philanthropists should invest in building accommodation facility for both teachers and students’ group. Municipality and KDA can play key roles over there. With the potential of the city to grow, land use planning should be regulated and monitored very strictly to minimize environmental degradation. While approving a plan for building KDA and Municipality should work together to provide useful information of planning, design and durability of the buildings in the areas. Municipality along with Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI) could train more people to be skilled technicians/bricklayers who will be aware of saline and cyclone resilient structures and how to repair accordingly.

Water

Drinking water becomes a number one concern in the Mongla Municipality area. There are two ponds from where the water is supplied to around 2500 Households. There are also 15 water outlets for the poor. There is a huge complain about the quality of water as it smells bad at household ends. Now people only use the supplied water for household purposes other than drinking. The private water jars are becoming very popular even though they cost around 2 taka per litre. There is no one living in the city who does not pay for water. Having proper treatment plants in place along with expansion of water supply to other households demands bringing all available ponds to be preserved by community-public-private partnership manner. Therefore, private sectors can run cheap treatment plants to provide quality water. Solving water crisis could attract other business opportunities to grow in eastern side of Mongla river. 

A city is a place where people can have a quality life along with available livelihood options. This quality of life can only be provided through installing quality education; quality health services; quality housing and quality water. Nevertheless,  access to all of these services and goods must be ensured to all classes of people. Every city is unique with their problems’ dimensions associated with its stakeholders. To understand stakeholder-problem dynamics well in solving existing problems is very unique from place to place. To understand this uniqueness and to capitalise that is also a part and parcel to design a migrant friendly climate resilient city.

Ashraful Haque is Researcher at ICCCAD and his area of expertise is sustainability, resilience and risk reduction. He can be reached at [email protected]

Sumaiya Binte Anwar is Research officer at ICCCAD. She is a civil engineer and a climate enthusiast. She can be reached at [email protected]

Rukhsar Sultana is Researcher at ICCCAD. She can be reached at [email protected]