Climate change is obvious and impacts the life and livelihoods of vulnerable people. Bangladesh, one of the climate-vulnerable countries, ranked 7th on the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, faces manifold and massive climate impacts. Especially the coastal areas are highly exposed to tropical cyclones, tidal surge, river bank erosion, sea level rise and high salinity intrusion. The frequent cyclone with higher magnitude is putting lives and livelihoods of the local community in danger. Bangladesh faced 14 major cyclones in the last 15 years including the most recent one Sitrang in October 2022. On the other hand, a total of 4, 530 cyclone shelters have been constructed across the coast of Bangladesh to protect the lives of the people. Except the School cum Cyclone Shelter, most of them are used once or twice a year while the cyclone approaches, but the other time of the year remains nonfunctional.
In October of 2022, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of Bangladesh has published the much awaited “National Adaptation Plan of Bangladesh (2023-2050)” (NAP) while the Conference of Parties (CoP) 27 is being held from November 6, 2022 at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. This NAP indicates the adaptation requirements of BDT. 20,037 billion (equivalent to USD 230 billion) in 113 interventions under eight distinct sectors along with other cross cutting issues for 27 years of implementation period envisions building a climate-resilient nation through effective adaptation strategies. Under the sector “Disaster, social safety and security”, NAP has suggested the rehabilitation of existing cyclone shelters to serve multiple purposes and construction of gender and disability-friendly, multipurpose and climate-resilient cyclone shelters.
The multipurpose cyclone shelters differ from other traditional shelters in a sense that they serve multiple purposes such as school, health center, occasionally for weddings and or any other social events under normal conditions and shelter people during cyclones. The concept of a School-Cyclone Shelter works well, but in most cases, the concept of a multipurpose cyclone remains a name rather than something that is operational round the year. When human life and livelihood are linked to the shelter, the actual goals of multipurpose are met. Furthermore, the lack of proper management of the center results in garbage filling at other times of the year, which interferes with the main purpose of infrastructure development. The non-government organization Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) has demonstrated a model Community Climate Resilience Center (CCRC) by transforming traditional cyclone shelter in Poshurbunia village under Morrelgonj upazila of Bagherhat district, Bangladesh. The local government has handed over the cyclone shelter to the Community-Based Organization (CBO) to establish a solution center where vulnerable people can take a systematic approach to reduce their vulnerability towards climate risks. CCDB strengthens the capacity of the CBO, so that this peoples’ platform could be able to bring innovative initiatives based on needs where community people will be connected to improve their life and livelihoods. CCDB and the community partners identified six core areas to provide services and solutions from the center to the vulnerable community people in a way that leads to enhanced climate resilience. Under the management of community-based organization and local government supervision, the CCRC has different kinds of service links with government, non-government and private agencies. Many entrepreneurs have been developed in producing organic fertilizer commercially where the CCRC is playing the role of marketing the community products with the assistance of private sectors. Many families begin making paper packets instead of polythene there, and this business has grown in popularity and acceptance because of the nature of environmental friendliness. The local agriculture extension and livestock department officials are providing services to families affected by sitting at the CCRC building regularly. A special health camp for the women is being operated by an NGO in this resilience center. People are also getting knowledge, capacity and skill development training, weather information and warning signals, locally appropriate technological solutions for adaptive agriculture and availing seed preservation and drying facilities. The CBO manages a community risk fund and provides emergency and recovery support to the most affected families. Not only these, this CCRC is acting as the platform of people’s voice for advocating any local issue. The people from various professions find a relationship with the CCRC to improve their life and livelihoods.
Collective actions using local resources and knowledge are extremely essential to be climate resilient in a particular vulnerable area. The vulnerable community needs to understand their vulnerability, explore the corresponding solutions and plan to act together. The model CCRC is an excellent example of multipurpose cyclone shelter. This contributes to achieving the goal to ensure protection against climate change variability and induced natural disasters, developing climate-resilient infrastructure, integrating climate change adaptation into the planning process for good governance, and ensuring transformative capacity building for climate change adaptation. During the implementation of NAP Bangladesh, the learning of the model CCRC should be incorporated in the priority activities regarding rehabilitation of existing and construction of multipurpose cyclone shelters involving community people. This will empower the local people, enhance the capacity and bring community people in climate adaptive actions towards resilience.
The writer is a Coordinator, Climate Change Program, CCDB, Dhaka. Email: [email protected]