Field Visit in Bangladesh

An exposure to the site

Field visit from the 13th to the 15th of June 2023

The teams were moving over concrete roads that were laid up between large water bodies used for saline water shrimp aquaculture, or gher as it is known locally.

“This area was full of vegetation even during our early youths. We witnessed canopies. After having recurrent saline water intrusion this barren land is left with bare stems of dead trees and marks of salt on the infertile lands.”

Jarina Bibi explained during a FGD (Focus Group Discussion) that was conducted in a courtyard, behind a local mosque. It was a humid summer afternoon. While everyone was eagerly waiting for the rains to come, the local women were told that they are ‘habituated’ to the annual cyclones. Cyclone is not a big deal to them and even this year, they are literally waiting for the same to occur and fill up the annual quota. They do not consider cyclones the dominant risk but the embankment which the government hardly pays any attention to. This makes the residents stay underwater for more than a year. Undoubtedly, Aila (2009) was the single most powerful disaster but that made no change in terms of governmentality. The area gets flooded every 15 days when it is exposed to a new moon or full moon high tide, leading to water intrusion into the farmlands and local ponds. The local deep tube well is the only source of drinking water. After cyclone Amphan (2020), the area encountered one and a half years of waterlogging due to the already-breached embankment. They just constructed platforms inside their rooms and stayed almost more than weeks until the water level dropped down. They mentioned that Aila taught them that an elevated homestead can only save them from gushing floodwater. That they tried to implement it in their own way amid the scarcity of resources. Many people took shelter on the concrete platform located at higher levels. Moreover, there were Covid-19 protocols during the Amphan with physical distancing appearing as one of the major affronts to collectively manage immediate requirements. They had to simply depend on external relief which was not sufficient and irregular. There was an acute lack of access to drinking water and sanitation facilities, especially for women.

Figure 8. Focus Group Discussion with local women at Assasuni

Most of the people from Protapnagar possess homestead only. They severely lack land resources to conduct farming. Water bodies are too small. On top of that, the issue of flood governance and embankment management is a major concern for the inhabitants as it triggers other multiple interconnected risks encompassing frequent water logging, saline water intrusion, and livelihood problems of the inhabitants. To embrace inland fishing as an adaptation measure, they need to fix the embankment issue first. People are keen to adopt bag farming as they are trained by Sajida Foundation. Also, they are interested in rearing poultry birds. Many of them urged to be facilitated with e-rickshaw or toto as it might fetch them at least a decent income as this is the most common mode of transportation.

When they were asked if they wish to leave a place that is full of livelihood uncertainties, they replied that it is their birthplace – how can they leave? Also, one of the women interlocutors, Monoara Begum referred to an anecdote of weather extremities in the area. She explained that a boy from their neighbourhood with a stable job in Dhaka returned to his native place during Amphan to support his former neighbours because he felt his parents were cremated here and thus, he felt obligated to do something for his native place during the adversaries. On the other side, Arjuna Bibi has no one in her family and she is involved with daily waged work in another island. Arjuna stated that she has ample scope for leaving the terrain but her hereditary attachment prevents her from even thinking about the same.