Takeaways Author: Nimish Jha Comments
ASIA: Bangladesh

“I had to abandon my home due to river bank erosion. And so many of us had to do the same and we were forced to move to a slum in the city,” said a resident of Baitul Aman slums, Faridpur, Dhaka.

Stories like these reflect the limited capacity of victims—of whom there are so many—to cope with their dislocation. However, what it does not explicitly articulate is the cultural uprooting and loss that they have suffered due to this dislocation. The raging forces of our nature are now ravaging our homes, lives and settlements, leading many to seek a place to live in cities. This relocation makes them even more vulnerable and exposes them to more threats from climate change since, so often, it is found that they can only afford to live in precarious settlements.

These very sentiments found echo during our field visit to slums in Faridpur in Dhaka as a part of our conference on “Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change” organized by the International Institute of Environment Development (IIED) on the sidelines of Community Based Adaptation (CBA) 10.

Today, we are living in a world that is experiencing a rapid expansion of towns and cities. The range of changes and impacts this process is creating is also inevitable. Cities today are also faced with urban vulnerabilities due to various factors including climate change. It has already been highlighted that neither the institutions nor governance structures have been able to keep up with the rising pressure of demand for services and the need to develop coping capacities, nor have they been equipped enough to deal with minimising vulnerabilities.

Henceforth, the role of communities becomes very important in leading the way by showcasing community based adaptation that deals with the challenges emerging as a result of climate change. These problems are further gets exacerbated in cities where a vast majority of people are already residing or where migration is leading to a rise in population. The cities are today grappling with decaying infrastructure, high density population, and a lack of the governance structures that are needed to make cities resilient.

Mindful of these aspects, the theme of this year’s CBA 10 conference was urban resilience in Dhaka. Over 300 delegates, including us, the team from the IIED conference, met at CBA 10 to discuss, deliberate and exchange knowledge on community initiatives in building adaptation and finding ways to upscale it.

It raised key questions: what is a community? What makes these communities adaptive? How do we devise a mechanism to channelise the community-based adaptation?

It was heartening to see the discussion emphasizing the need to improve resilience in cities and ways to address the adaptive needs. Case studies and group discussions during the conference presented how the communities can bring about significant improvements in the resilience of their cities by their knowledge, capacity and innovation.

In future, more people and their families will be coming to the cities due to climate related disasters. This will be the only choice they have for a place to live and seek a livelihood. Instead of looking upon them as problems, the cities will have to devise strategies to cope with demographic changes caused by these factors. Instead of looking upon them as a problem, the community based adaptation strategies and processes could be explored as a potential option to bring about the change and improve the well being of the communities, especially in vulnerable settlements.

Remember, “Together we can!”.


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