I was at Sharonkhola in mid November this year. The people were mourning for their lost families, crying over the furious night of 15 November 2007 when Cyclone Sidr passed over their lives.
In the evening I spoke with Dulal Farazi (pictured here) who earns a living catching fish from his boat. He experienced the devastation of the cyclone when he was staying near the Sundarban in the Bay of Bengal.
After three days he came back to his house, but his two beloved daughters five-year-old Fatima and two-year-old Kulsum were washed away that night. His face darkens and tears fall from his eyes as describes his panic. His wife Majeda bursts out crying, saying that if there had been a cyclone shelter she would have saved her daughter’s life.
Now he and his wife live on the same land and have rebuilt their small tin-roofed house. He and his seven member team continue to go for fishing as before.
This year, their trip was tremendously hampered due to frequent cyclone warnings. The caution signal three occurred too frequently to complete a seven day trip to the sea. This signal advises fisherman to keep themselves near the shore at safe places, so that if the sea become too rough and cyclones form they can save themselves. Usually such fishing trips invest 22 -23,000 taka ( about £200) for food, drinking water, ice for fish and so on.
Dulal explains: “I have just returned from a failed trip. I had heard from other fisherman that now more fish are available, so prepared for another trip. After one day’s travel while preparing for fishing there was another caution signal three. So we returned again, the waiting and travelling consumed all our food and all our ice melted. Our investments were wasted.”
Dulal talks about compensation. He has a boat , but other fisherman have to re-pay all the money they invested regardless whether the trip is successful or not. It’s a big burden for them, even having to re-pay into next year.
The lives and livelihoods of people are becoming insecure due to a changing climate. As a environmental scientist I know the correlation between temperature rising and formation of depression in sea. Dulal too can perceive a change in the familar sea that feeds him and his family.
While a lot of resources are used for some of the world to live in luxury, people here aren’t even able to meet their basic needs, like having clean water and enough to eat. Could we think about their fate? Is it their fate or can it be changed?
Too much salt in water is becoming a curse for the coastal community, so says Moni Sarder from the port of Mongla. There is water all around them, yet they have to go up to five kilometres away for drinking water.
I talk with her, as we sit by the pond sand filter installed by Prodipan with support of CAFOD. This filter provides the only source of drinking water for around 300-400 families, including for the fisherman in dry season. They are thankful for such support, but it is insufficient as the problem is so big.
This scarce water is used for drinking , for everything else they have to use salty water. Malnutrition, scabies, diarrhoea are among the common health problems I found there. The water was not so salty earlier, they say, but day by day salinity is increasing.
Moni and her neighbours have learnt about climate change from Prodipan in their regular community group meeting. I ask them what other things they do as a group.
Laksmi Mondol extends a handful mushrooms to me, saying that they are also trying to adapt to the changing climate through by finding new ways of earning a living. Eighteen-year-old Parvin Akhter is confident in tailoring, working as an apprentice in a nearby market, hoping to support herself with her new skill.
They are all aware about the consequences of climate change. They are raising their houses, strengthening roofs. Organised, trained and capable, this community is developing.
But sometimes they think that their effort in adapting is like using a single straw to stop the tide. The problem is big. They are trying to increase their resilience, but they also call for reducing or stopping use of greenhouse gasses, to hold the pace of climate change.
Posted by Umme Kulsum from CAFOD partner Prodipan in Bangladesh
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