Differently Able People and Climate Change Issues in Bangladesh | 2015-08-04

Differently Able People and Climate Change Issues in Bangladesh

Natasha Israt Kabir

4th August, 2015 09:15:03 printer

Differently Able People and Climate Change Issues in Bangladesh

Photo Courtesy: BRIDGE Foundation, British Council’s Training session for the Differently Able entitled with “A Different Shakespeare” to engage the differently able who are physically immovable and deaf.

Climate change is expected to affect people and the environment due to the increasing number and strength of extreme climatic events it caused, which will lead to rise in the vulnerability of natural and social systems that is unique to each circumstance. The IPCC (2001) published the assessment of world’s capacity to cope and adapt with the impacts of the climate change, where it stated that the most affected people are those who least able to cope with the risks it will bring.  Oxfam (2010) highlighted that poverty take a great role in determining the vulnerability of people to respond to climate change because poor people will have limited access to and control over factors that will determine their adaptive capacity and resiliency, such as land, credit, information, mobility, and education. Since these systems are getting more vulnerable to the natural hazards, a response from community is needed to counter the potential detrimental impact of the disasters. This concept is known as climate change adaptation (Smit, Burton, Klein and Street, 1999).

Early approaches to climate change adaptation apply the top-down thinking as framed from the characterization of climate change issue as a global environmental pollution problem. Despite its significant contributions to assess the climate change impacts, this perspective started to show its deficiencies mostly due to its simplified characterization of the multi-dimensional climate variables that are sensitive to local conditions (Aalst, Cannon and Burton, 2008). The key to CBA is the real day-to-day practice of adaptation to climate change, where the information on how to cope with climate change is coming from the people themselves. The differentiation between CBA and other development project does not lies in what the intervention is, but more of the inputs of interventions contributed by the local community as part of the solution towards the negative impact of climate change that they are facing (Huq and Reid, 2007).

Considering the climate turmoil that are getting more apparent, there is a growing demand to expand the application of climate change adaptation. The widespread and long-term impacts of climate change adaptation are prominent. This condition leads to the need in analysing how to effectively scaling up a successful climate change adaptation project so that it can bring more benefits to larger scale: faster, more people, and larger area (IIRR, 2000).

Deprived people must make their voices heard in the negotiations for climate change adaptation. 10 percent of the total population of Bangladesh is known as differently able, often called people with disabilities or disabled people. It is worth saying that, they are often treated with disregard, and so far they are the most vulnerable of the society. Yet their role in homes, places of work and communities is often underplayed. So the question should be raised that, what about the differently able people in the issue of climate change negotiations? In the sense of equity or in giving privilege, we need to use this understanding to influence the political process and to inject a much needed sense of urgency into the negotiations for climate change adaptation.

As a country, Bangladesh is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change due to its low economic strength, inadequate infrastructure, weak social development, lack of institutional capacity in addition to the high dependency of its people to the natural resources as source of livelihood (Ministry of Environment and Forest Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 2005). Therefore to wrap the research comprehensively, this research is well suited to be implemented in Bangladesh that often referred to as the laboratory on climate change adaptation due to its advanced and global-scale collaboration, research, networking, and knowledge management to tackle the adverse impacts of climate change. Among others, this research will also take benefit of the results and discussion during the International Conference of Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change which initiated and developed in Bangladesh and by which its 5th session have significant portion of discussion focusing on up-scaling, including to result a publication titling ‘Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change: Scaling it Up’.

Now here lies the questions about policy:

1.    What are the considerations of successful community based climate change adaptation projects? What are the key contributing internal and external factors to develop successful Exclusive and Inclusive Approaches for the Differently Able People?
2.    What does scaling up CBA mean? What are the options and limitations to scale up CBA initiatives in the environment and development context? To which scale the scaling up can be done? What are the considerations for each?
3.    How to record the lessons learned from Exclusive and Inclusive Approaches for the Differently Able People? What are the information exchange usually taking places in the implementation of Exclusive and Inclusive Approaches for the Differently Able People? How can information exchange as part of knowledge management take part in the effectiveness of scaling up Exclusive and Inclusive Approaches for the Differently Able People? 

It is the time to encourage all the leaders to highlight the importance of the responsibilities towards the people with disabilities. We need to secure stronger references to the differently able dimensions of climate change in the texts, institutions and mechanisms. It must be informed by the experiences of grassroots level whose are most marginalized and deprived from around the world can and must make a difference. Climate Change adaptation is about justice.

Natasha Israt Kabir : Freelance Researcher, Vital Voices Fellow, President and Founder  of BRIDGE Foundation AEIF 2013 Project “IT For Differently Able” by U.S State Department Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund