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Dhaka Tribune

Waste: The one with waste recycling

How an adaptive strategy in Uganda could be transferred to help with climate change in Bangladesh

Update : 09 Jan 2023, 05:39 PM

People who are the most affected by climate change worldwide produce most of the creative adaptation strategies. Since local people have the knowledge, they can be regarded as primary decision-makers, and these solutions are locally-led. However, those people frequently lack the economic resources and power to implement their unique ideas.

Locally-led adaptation strategies not only mean community engagement but involve the local people to develop a solution for their existing problems, which are suitable and efficient for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the face of climate change. 

We studied the transferable adaptation strategies of informal settlements in Uganda. Through a small grant jointly funded by the Climate Justice Resilient Fund (CJRF), and Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) and implemented by International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the “Gobeshona Global Conference I,” we started our investigation into the adaptation strategies on common issues such as waste management, income-generating activities, and so on. 

Not all the solutions can be applied to all places as those can be location specific. Common interest in environmental issues was one of the motivations for us to work as a team. Because of the importance of waste management, we chose this topic in particular. 

In informal settlements, people live in small spaces. Unnecessary garbage makes the place smaller. Moreover, the drainage channels get blocked with plastics and other wastes, and water blockage becomes frequent. 

That is why people are concerned about this issue and trying to tackle the problem through low-cost local strategies. 

In Bangladesh, the waste management scenario is very poor in the slum areas. We shared the cost-effective management activities with the local government, which could be easily implemented in the informal settlements.

During the study, challenges identified could be different levels and backgrounds of the team members, the language barrier, and the Covid -19 pandemic. Due to the lockdowns, an empirical study was not possible. 

However, we could overcome those challenges using various online platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp, E-mail, and Microsoft Teams. Using these media, we became connected, which reduced the barriers between us. 

Another challenge was to ensure the participation of the local government personnel in the dissemination session due to the bureaucratic process. Through Zoom meetings, we were able to connect with the local government personnel who could carry out the shared knowledge to the slum communities of Bangladesh.

In May 2021, we conducted two webinars with the community leaders, and they shared their experiences and challenges of working with the poor slum dwellers of Uganda. The communities they work with are mainly overpopulated, and people mostly have left their places of origin to earn livelihoods. 

During Covid-19, poor people worked together for their livelihood. They have created saving groups for economic empowerment and encourage group members for other activities related to climate and environmental issues. 

Sarah Nandudu, a community leader, has been working with the informal communities. She said: “And people once were taught the methodology of savings, they just come, and we do not call people to come. They come to put their money together for better use.” 

Besides savings, people share their problems and find a solution together. Through their savings after the lockdown period, they provided incentives like sewing machines to make masks and taught how to prepare liquid soaps. 

Two of Uganda's significant climate change-related issues are prolonged drought and heavy rainfall. So the government has conducted vast research activities through agricultural research organizations to discover drought and flood-resistant crops. 

However, these activities are shared with a limited number of people who are directly affected and interested in agricultural farming. In terms of resilience practices, the supported communities have been adapting several measures regarding the challenges they face due to climate change. 

Actually, the communities get flooded because of our own generated waste. So, then we realized that we're the problems, and we should get solutions,” said Sarah. 

To get rid of these problems the government does not have enough resources to support them. So the community people themselves engage in activities such as tree plantation, planting drought- and flood-resistant crops, and managing wastes to reduce environmental damage. They solved their flooding problem with general cleaning activity but at a small scale because poor waste disposal is one of the main reasons drainage blocking occurs which eventually results in flooding. 

One of the mobilizers Edris from Kyebando Settlement, Kawempe Division, Kampala shared his experience of how they supported slum dwellers in waste management practices: 

So we've supported the groups to do projects for waste management that are dealing with waste management, in particular, that means we're reducing waste at a micro level, at home state levels where we can make sure that now people look at waste as a business.”

Moreover, they had done awareness campaigns on climate change issues about preserving natural resources and how to manage the solid wastes generated within the informal settlements. Not only do they physically adapt to an adverse situation, but they also have a mindset to cope with the challenges. 

Through this research, we identified the feasible locally-led adaptation strategies in the context of Bangladesh. All these common adaptive strategies can be transferred to other informal settlements. To build resilience among the informal settlers in Bangladesh, proactive interaction, coordination, and collaboration among various actors are a must.

Hamida Akter is an MSc Student, Department of Environment Sciences, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. Sarah Nandudu is Coordinator for National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (SDI). Zakia Sultana is an Assistant Professor, Department of Environment Science and Disaster Management, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Bangladesh.

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