When speaking about the devastating impacts of climate change, Bangladesh is a common example. Characterised by its coastal deltas, Bangladesh faces some of the worst impacts of rising sea levels, with the country recently experiencing the most devastating floods in decades.
But what is lesser known is that Bangladesh is one of the most resilient countries in the face of climate change. It has an effective cyclone early warning system and local communities show have learned to manage their crops and their water through indigenous and creative methods.
However, Bangladesh must work to feed its increasing population as agricultural land diminishes and people are displaced by climate change, leading to livelihood losses.
How do local people deal with these challenges? And what can we learn from them?
In recent years, we have visited some communities in different regions across the country to better understand their needs and discover what solutions they would like to see.
One specific region I would like to highlight here is Barind in the northwest of Bangladesh. It’s also the home to Anika Tamanna lives, our guest for this week.
Once famous for food production, Barind is experiencing first-hand the impact of the climate emergency. Across the region, rising temperatures, record low levels of rainfall and drought are depriving people of drinking and agricultural water.
Irrigation water is extracted for Boro paddy, a highly water-intensive crop. In summer, when drinking water is not available in most tube wells, the problem is most severe. Sometimes people have to run from village to village in search of drinking water.
Most of the Barind region is irrigated with ground water. The water that is being used is not being replenished. This implies, that during the dry season, tube wells are depleted, leaving communities without safe water.
With rain and surface water in short supply, farmers are turning to groundwater for their crops, undermining environmental efforts to reduce its usage.
According to some farmers, drawing water from underground for irrigation should be stopped immediately. Other possible solutions include switching from Boro rice to less water intensive crops. They also suggest building water reservoirs and making ponds and deeper creeks to conserve rainwater. Harvesting rainwater from the roofs of houses is another solution.
The average rainfall in Bangladesh is 2,200 millimeters per year, but the average rainfall in Barind is around about half of the average. Due to the lack of water, many farmers are turning crop lands into fish farming ponds and even brickfields.
The people of the Barind region are struggling with the water crisis, but they are finding ways to meet the challenges. However, more effective steps are needed to resolve it, according to Anika Tamanna.
“In this country, under law, everyone has the right to water,” she says. “Therefore, it is the duty of the government to provide safe water for all. When water runs out, tube wells need to be installed quickly. For safe drinking water. Water supply sources need to be made healthier. So that every man, woman, and child has access to the safe water that is fundamental to life.”
Bangladesh is the face of a climate crisis, but it’s giving it a fight. The future is uncertain, but the community bonding in this country is more than elsewhere, as people share their knowledge and experiences, moving ahead together, with resilience and hope.