Disaster Management and Climate Change
Bangladesh is well known for its high profile floods and cyclones. In surprising contrast, but no less real, other nearby parts of northwest Bangladesh are suffering the opposite and more subtle, rapidly building disaster of insufficient water. For many years, this region has suffered through insufficient food growth to sustain the population (a regional situation nationally known as ‘mongla’). The lack of jobs drives menfolk to leave for many months to find work in unaffected parts of the country. The severity of this problem is rapidly increasing, as water tables fall, and as regular climatic patterns appear to be changing in a damaging way.
TEAR Fund UK supports LAMB’s project to help churches and communities in northwest Bangladesh to minimise the effects of disasters, particularly those arising or worsening through climate change. Communities in disaster prone areas will be better prepared, more resilient and healthy, reducing impact from:
- Damaged crops, loss of livestock (reduced income sources, increased malnutrition)
- Houses, schools, roads, and culverts destroyed
- Serious waterborne diseases, especially of women and children (again increasing malnutrition)
There has been widespread introduction of shallow tube-wells, which not only enable production of an extra rice crop in the dry winter months, but also enable irrigation in the rainy season when rainfall is insufficient.
Although this has had a significant impact on overall crop production, irrigation does not come free of charge. Dependence on such extensive irrigation is also likely to be a short term benefit, since the water table is rapidly declining, and there are risks of arsenic contamination being linked to such irrigation.
Disaster Management Committees
While these exist on paper under the government (Union & Sub-district Councils), they are generally non-functional. LAMB staff and local church /community leaders who have been trained in community development and Disaster Management/DRR will strengthen these local government committees through capacity building and recognition of the important role they play.
A most important factor in developing sustainability is that communities, groups, and churches take joint responsibility for the community, beyond their personal boundaries.
Approach: Community-Based Adaptation
Community groups identify those most vulnerable to disaster and climate-change risks. Adaptation involves awareness of flood- or drought-resistant farming methods (rice, trees), alternative livelihoods, planning ahead for availability of food and water during floods, volunteers for rescue efforts if needed,
Environmental sustainability: Community people, church leaders and leaders of local government provide education to individuals and groups on climate change and its impacts to others. This creates opportunities to understand environmental issues and help them to take appropriate measures to reduce degradation.
Working through Churches
LAMB contacts with community churches have been focused on spiritual relationships, rather than building of empowerment. Through an approach called ‘Umojja’ (Swahili for ‘together’), local church members are trained in a similar approach to the Participatory Action Research described on our social development page. The approach builds a foundation of God’s desire for justice for the poor to encourage church members to engage with the social needs of their neighbours.
There are unfortunately many examples of churches and Christian based organisations in Bangladesh seriously failing to follow Christian practices because – through external funding – their authorities have the ability to exert power and influence. This project does not give funds to churches to spend, but trains and mentors them.