Story of adaptation from a vulnerable community
The flooding that swamped Bangladesh recently within weeks of erratic rainfall is a stark signal that Bangladesh’s weather extremes will continue to get worse in the coming years.
Though several factors influence flooding, our changing climate is a stressor that is exacerbating this process. A third of Bangladesh is underwater after some of the heaviest rains in a decade which started in June and the water is yet to subside. In North-central Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra river was almost 40cm (15.7 inches) higher than normal and threatening to burst through its banks, an Aljazeera report said. Most villagers were trying to stay near their flood-damaged homes, but some 15,000 had fled severely affected areas. Although there are many adversities during such crises, communities continue to come together to help each other. This story is about Mamun Rashid and his network of rapid flood action team.
Mamun Rashid is originally from Dhanut Upazilla in Bogra. At 26 years of age, he had left behind his wife and three children to work in as a caretaker at a house in Dhaka. Now, 49 years old and adapted to life in the capital, he often gets anxious phone calls from home, especially in times of such crises. Bogra has six major rivers flowing through it and is no stranger to flooding. In June this year, however, the effects of the natural disaster were different than usual. His house, with bamboo walls and tin roof, had gone underwater.
“My main concern was that my family is homeless right now. Even if it is temporary, they still needed a place to relocate until we can move back home,” Mamun said. Mamun immediately asked his employers for leave so he could go and help manage the crisis with his family. There were 23 more houses which were severely affected by the flood. Union members were waiting for the water to retreat before they could come to a unanimous decision on how to reduce the detrimental effects of the floods. Locals had used sandbags stacked up in front of their houses to prevent more water from getting inside as an immediate measure. However, this process is slow and uncertain, given the magnitude of the flooding.
By the time Mamun reached home, he witnessed that not only his residential area but also much of the cropland was underwater. This would destroy all of his harvest, meaning that this year the flood would also have a huge economic impact in their lives.
Under Mamun’s and his community’s joint effort, locals came together first to make a secure place in a faraway dry land to store their necessary belongings. They had made cooking arrangements and were also going out to collect clean drinking water daily in groups.
Floods were annual in the Northern parts of Bangladesh and some adjustment methods were already in practice for years. These networks of flood action team helped save whatever belongings they had and created a makeshift haven until authorities could take proper action. “Our neighbours, people from nearby villages were also allowing us to keep our livestock there and helped with feeding and keeping them alive,” he said. Without the solidarity of the people, he or anyone else would not have been able to save their livelihoods and belongings - especially during this pandemic when they are already facing financial difficulties.
Many communities that are vulnerable to climate change impact have been dealing with climate variability for decades and have a wealth of knowledge about how to adapt. Community-based adaptation to climate change focuses on empowering communities to use their own knowledge and decision-making processes to take action. Such actions are creating locally-led adaptation to such adversities especially during the time of crises.
Adnan Qader, is working as Advocacy Officer – Water and Climate, WaterAid Bangladesh Mahia Rahman is Co-Founder of Resource Coordination Network Bangladesh