Rangu Debi, 70, lives on Monpura, an isolated island of Bhola district in Bangladesh, by the Meghna River. A widow with six children, she has seen many catastrophic cyclones and floods, but fifty years ago, Cyclone Bhola’s flood waters took everything from her.
“The flood water of 1970 cyclone took one of my daughters, whom I miss always. We spent whole night in tress, some survived holding tail of dead cows. We lost our homes, communal assets and livelihoods,” she says.
Since then she’s been living in a government shelter, and her story is not uncommon.
A densely populated, low-lying country dominated by floodplains, Bangladesh is exceptionally vulnerable to flooding. Long subject to frequent cyclones, extreme weather and storm surges, climate change is now supercharging those events.
Meanwhile, rising sea levels are driving a slow onset disaster in salinization. Rangu says it’s affected her family’s health. In earlier days, river and pond water was safe to drink, but not any longer.
“Now the water tastes salty, and we feel abdominal pain all the time. We suffer often from diarrhea, dysentery and jaundice,” she says.
Those able to leave hazard-prone areas have done so, while the poorest have been left behind with flimsy housing, tenuous livelihoods and nowhere to go when disaster strikes.
Hundreds of millions of lives hang in the balance.
UNDP has been supporting Bangladesh with advancing adaptation planning and budgeting and tracking domestic climate finance, to resilience building, to reducing emissions from fossil fuel-based power and advancing the country’s REDD+ Readiness Roadmap.
One project has taken a community-led, approach, working with nature to improve jobs and food security and reduce disaster risk.
Since 2015, with the backing of the Global Environment Facility-Least Developed Countries Fund, Bangladesh’s Forest Department and UNDP have been working with eight coastal communities in the Bhola…