After more than a year of trying to cope with the after-effects of cyclone Amphan, another cyclone means that they again have to start from scratch
When cyclone Yaas made landfall in Bangladesh on May 26, 2021, it devastated the people of the Southwest coastal area. After more than a year of trying to cope with the after-effects of cyclone Amphan, another cyclone means that they again have to start from scratch. This includes them trying to repair their homes and recover their livelihood sources to get back to normal. However, not everyone can afford to do that, since many have entirely lost their lands and other resources in cyclone Amphan. As a result, earning livelihood may not be that simple after cyclone Yaas.
Among the Southwest coastal regions, Satkhira district is one of the most affected by cyclone Yaas. The TAPESTRY project at ICCCAD is working at Shyamnagar Upazila in the district to find out the impacts the cyclone has caused on the people and their livelihood and has provided an insight into some unfortunate events as a result of the cyclone.
Most of the people in the area, especially those who depend on shrimp farming for their livelihood, are under constant threat due to the erosion of the Kholpetua river flowing through the Durgabati village of Burigoalini union in Shyamnagar. This year too, thousands of shrimp enclosures, or Ghers, have been completely inundated because of the river erosion caused by cyclone Yaas.
In addition, the salinity of agricultural lands and houses in the Padmapukur union has also increased due to the river erosion during cyclone Yaas. Similarly, important sources of livelihood like rice farming, livestock rearing and vegetable cultivation have been severely impacted. To add to these woes, the drinking water crisis that already existed in these areas after cyclone Amphan has worsened with Yaas since the freshwater sources have been damaged. It is still unpredictable how long it will take to rebuild and go back to normal after the cyclone.
One thing that has been common during both cyclone Amphan and Yaas is the presence of unsustainable embankments in different coastal regions. In the case of Durgabati village, its embankment had deep cracks for a long time with no steps taken to repair it, hence it collapsed and the Ghers went underwater.
On the other hand, villagers in Patakhali village of Padmapukur union have been demanding a sustainable embankment for a while now to no avail. After the cyclone Amphan, a villager from Shyamnagar said, “I would like to ask NGOs to improve our embankments since the water entering this area causes serious damage to the fishes in Ghers and the livestock as their food gets spoiled, and because the Water Development Board takes a long time to reach out to us.”
It is clear that even after more than a year since cyclone Amphan, no proper steps have been taken to repair the embankments, while the local peoples’ livelihood options are being constantly jeopardized by cyclones and their impact.
Despite these unfavourable situations, there is a silver lining. Since the villagers at Shyamnagar have noticed that help to make them resilient against disasters and to protect their livelihood either doesn’t come at all or comes much later, they have started taking matters into their own hands.
It is worth mentioning that when the villagers at Patakhali village of Padmapukur union got to know about cyclone Yaas approaching, they immediately took the initiative to start repairing the embankment on their own to protect themselves and their livelihood. Because of previous cyclones, villagers have realized that only men cannot be depended upon financially, so now women also work in Ghers, raise livestock and cultivate vegetables to become self-reliant.
This enabled women to repair the embankments in different villages including Patakhali before the cyclone made landfall. Moreover, the villagers can now understand warning signals given before cyclones, which helped them to take steps accordingly. Though these are small steps, it is important to note that villagers are now more conscious about disaster preparedness to protect their lives and livelihood.
The villagers are eager to do whatever is needed to protect their livelihood or shift to other livelihood options. But after cyclone Yaas, it can be seen that they alone cannot solve all their problems. In this case, the co-operation of the government agencies and the NGOs is crucial.
Lack of sustainable embankments during this cyclone has destroyed various peoples’ livelihood options, and many people may not even be able to do any work after everything goes back to normal. A big part of this issue can be resolved by ensuring sustainable embankments, which can be possible with a quick response from government agencies like the Water Development Board and various NGOs. Thus, we can help to preserve the livelihood options of villagers and help them adapt without having to start all over again.
Faizah Jaheen Ahmed is working in International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) as a Research Intern, her research interest lies in Capacity Building, Gender Issues and Waste Management. Can be reached at [email protected]