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Char moddha uria 31 jan 2012

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A Case Study done for Islamic Relief Bangladesh with the financial assistance from DG ECHO

A Case Study done for Islamic Relief Bangladesh with the financial assistance from DG ECHO

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Char moddha uria 31 jan 2012 Char moddha uria 31 jan 2012 Document Transcript

  • A Disaster Resilient Future:Mobilizing Communities and Institutions for Effective Risk Reduction A Case Study on Char ModdhoUriaBrief History and Current Disaster Preparedness Efforts Islamic Relief Worldwide House No: 10, Road No: 10 Block-K, Baridhara, Dhaka-1212 Web: www.islamicrelief.com
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012Char ModdhoUriaJanuary, 2012Written by,Brad KlessVolunteer for Islamic Relief Worldwide-BangladeshQuest University CanadaM. Mizanur RahmanProgramme Officer (Monitoring, Evaluation and Research)Islamic Relief Worldwide-BangladeshCoordinated by,Niger Dil NaharProgramme Officer (Partnership Development and Capacity Building)Islamic Relief Worldwide-BangladeshAdvised by,Syed Shahnawaz AliProgramme ManagerIslamic Relief Worldwide-BangladeshPhoto and design,Brad Kless and M. Mizanur RahmanThis document is published under 6th DIPECHO Action Plan for South Asia implemented by Islamic Relief Worldwide working under the NARRIconsortium, an alliance for six international NGOs on disaster risk reduction in Bangladesh. The project is implemented with the financial assistancefrom European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) and the views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflectthe official opinion of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). The information in this document can’t be sold in anymanner, but can be used or reproduced with proper acknowledgment of DG ECHO and Islamic Relief Worldwide.1
  • Char ModdhoUria 20121. IntroductionLife on the watery margins of Bangladesh is a painfulbalance between prosperity and destruction. Farmersliving in the Char ModdhoUria in the district ofGaibandha benefit from some of the country’s richestsoil and produce high yields, but the concentration ofrivers and tributaries in the area means the residentsmust cope with an equally high risk of environmentaldisasters.Every year the water from South Asias great rivers isfunneled down into Bangladesh from India and Tibet, agreements of goodwill, in small government-providedbearing million tons of silt. These are rampant and huts, or camping on roads. Here they resided for up toswollen and also have the power to tear the land this ten years, though the government camps offered littleway and that, carving new courses every year, creating more than a place to sleep and there was a constantislands in the rivers only to destroy them in the near possibility that they would be kicked out of their homes.future. Known locally as ‘Chars’, these islands are Without assets of any sort they had no consistentevanescent, difficult to access, and form an extremely income and no opportunities to improve theirdynamic environment for more than a half million livelihoods.people trying to make a living despite extreme and Char ModdhoUria appeared again from sedimenthazardous conditions of frequent environmental deposited by the Brahmaputra only ten years ago, inpressures. 2001. It took 3-4 years for the Char to regain its fertility, after which families began to move back to it and begin2. Char History once again farming the rich soil.Previously connected with the mainland, the originalModdhoUria eroded away completely after intense 3. Life on the Charmonsoon-season flooding in 1988, the same flood that The homes of the char residents are simple, one roominundated two thirds of the country and claimed the structures constructed almost entirely out of jute stick.lives of over 5000 Bangladeshis. Many of the families Many families can afford to supplement their roofs withthat currently live on Char ModdhoUria were residents a tarp under the jute stick; but smaller proportions haveof the original land that disappeared more than two the capital to purchase sturdy tin walls or roofs.decades ago. Their ancestors have called the area Food comes from the ground though most of the peoplehome for as long as oral history can recall, at least 500 do not have enough land to produce the grains that canyears by many accounts. meet their annual family demand. The poor andWhen their land was permanently inundated in 1988, marginal farmers suffer the most as there is everyfamilies were forced to seek refuge on the earthen dam possibility to that they lose their crop land for riverthat separates the Brahmaputra from the rest of the erosion or crop due to flood water. People here investmainland, living on the property of others in tentative2
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012their all for cultivating the lands but if it is destroyed, Transportation is a constant obstacle for char residents;their sufferings know no bounds. markets, hospitals and schools are a world away across the river or its sandy bed and the roads on theWater comes from shared tube wells and is consumed mainland are already narrow and rough. On the Charunfiltered and unboiled. The ground water level on the itself there are no real roads, only narrow pathsChar sits below fifty feet and sometimes the tube wells between fields across which men push vans andproduce no water at all and crops go un-irrigated. bicycles or carry heavy loads of rice and barley. ForKitchens, which often symbolize social status in five months of the year the Brahmaputra moves quicklyBangladesh, are at ground level outdoors or in small and at full capacity, making necessary trips to theexternal shelters where traditional stoves are built into mainland is even tougher except when people canthe ground, small pits with three knobs uplifted to hold manage a boat. Owning no boat of their own, peoplevessels. The women burn jute stick and cow dung to wishing to cross the river must pay the fare of privateheat blackened and cracked pots, cooking the typical ferry owners.daily meals of rice and vegetables with fish, eggs, or Medical facilities are obviously hard to reach, andmeat enjoyed only a few times a month if at all. The doctors rarely make visit to the Char. Because there isriver does contain fish, though the quantity has dropped no easily available transportation for patients to thesharply in recent years and many families cannot spare infirmaries and hospitals, the families are often forcedfunds for even fishing net. to attach a chair to bamboo poles and physically carry the ill person across the Char, across the river, and across the mainland almost ten kilometers to the nearest medical facility. When the patient is very sick the whole bed is sometimes carried by two people.In homestead gardens families grow beets, bottlegourds, pumpkin, radishes, and the occasionalcucumber. In addition to growing their own vegetables,char dwellers sometimes keep chickens, goats orpigeons, though these are usually sold to purchase Most homes on the char are arranged into, with three toextra vegetables instead of consumed by the families upwards of twenty families to a group. Often families inthat raise them. Many also keep cows as per an these communal arrangements are blood related inarrangement with owners on the mainland. They some way or another, though this is not always thereceive the cows when they are young and rear them, case. There are a number of factors that make living infeeding them as well as benefitting from their milk. such clusters beneficial. When one family is struck withThen when the cow is grown enough to be sold, the illness, threatened by natural disaster, or faces otherprofits are split with the owner.3
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012dire situations, the members of the extended family orcluster are available for support and care.Temporary migration to the nearby cities or to thecapital cities for work is one of the very commonpractices for these people. Most of the working maleperson leave their homes and family members andmigrate to these places to have some earning andsupport the families. In these times, the females do notfeel insecurity as they live in a known community withtheir kith and keens. This feeling of security allows themale members to engage in migration, without which Income from agriculture comes as an influx only thricethey are to starve. a year during the harvesting months (December, April,The Char dwellers have two primary sources of income; and August) and the money made in these periodsagriculture and migration labor. Most families only own often does not suffice throughout the remainder of thebetween one and three bigha1 of land though the year. It is for this reason that so many families relysystem of land titles on the char is not concrete; Most of the crops on Char ModdhoUria are indeedphysical paper land titles exist but not all families have owned by the wealthier families from the mainland, whothem. In many cases families who lived on the land depend on the labor of the char dwellers to till, seed,before relocation in 1988 have returned to plots of land tend to and harvest their crops. The profits of theseof similar size and similar location to their original ones. crops are split between the owner on one hand and theThis is not without conflict of course; there has been a various workers on the other.history of violence surrounding the ‚land grabbing‛ andre-acquisition of emerging Char land.In the end, many of the wealthier families have stayedon the mainland, rebuilding their lives there, and mostwho live on the actual Char own only a slight amount ofland. But because the soil of the char land is fertilizedeach year by floodwaters, farmers have the option togrow a wide variety of lucrative crops including corn,barley, onions, chili peppers, paddy, and ground nuts,making the most of whatever small parcel of land theyhave. But crops that are grown on the char must reachthe market before they can be sold, a daunting taskthat can cost the farmers precious income. Either thefamily spends large amounts of energy moving the As will be discussed further below, the topography andproduct on their own or pays a rickshaw van 60 to 70 climate of Gaibandha district make the area ecologicallytk. per trip to move it for them. vulnerable to destabilizing situations including floods, river erosion, drought spells, and cold waves, many of which occur more frequently and intensely than in other1 1 acre = 3.81 bigha4
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012regions of Bangladesh. Aside from this, the local during monsoon, which damage their homestead,economy shows little diversification and is heavily livestock, agriculture crop, livelihood, drinking waterdependent on agriculture. In this setting, local availability, sanitation, and health and lowers totalemployment is often very limited from September capabilities.through December. Flooding in this area is generally an annualAs the landless and poorest survive on agricultural phenomenon and often a bi-annual one. Unusualwage, their opportunities and ensuing incomes drop in flooding, such as that seen in September and Octoberthis period, and they become trapped in what is locally of 2005, generated a particular crisis situation that iscalled Monga, a cyclical phenomenon of poverty and considerably worse than that of an average year. Thehunger. In years with particular negative weather floods destroy household assets, houses as well asconditions, the period of seasonal unemployment standing crops of rice and vegetables. Many of themexpands to more than four months, for example if early and their families in these situations enter a routine offloods in August and September destroy part of the only one poor meal per day, which leads to a state ofrecently sownrice crop. chronic malnutrition and starvation.In this context of vulnerability, seasonal food insecurity Floods are an expected occurrence, and prior to floodmanifests itself in all three of its dimensions: availability; season, families try to prepare as much as their fundsaccess and utilization. The shocks that trigger food allow them. Kerosene, firewood, and dry foods areinsecurity are usually local natural disasters, aggravated purchased with extra money, enough to last them up toby the specific vulnerability that the hard-core poor 15 days. If the water does not revisit and they are leftendure in various economic, social, health, and without extra cash, they are forced to visit mainlandgovernance factors. loan sharks to acquire extra capital at a crippling interest rate. The member of one family recounted how they attempt to save money for preparedness4. Environmental Threats measures, setting aside 5 or 10 taka each day. ButThe Chars are, thus, home to some of the poorest and when stomachs are rumbling it is all too easy to dig intomost vulnerable people in Bangladesh. These areas are savings.particularly prone to the effects of frequent climaticshocks (floods, drought and cyclones) which increasethe precariousness of poor people’s lives by wiping outtheir assets and pushing them deeper into poverty.Generally four types of flood occur in Bangladesh; a)Flash flood, b) River flood, c) Rain fed flood, and d)Flood caused by cyclonic storm surges. Gaibandhadistrict experiences river floods and rain fed floodsalmost every year. Gaibandha is among the most floodprone areas in the low-lying country as it sits upon the Families only leave their homes in the worst of theintensely active Brahmaputra-Jamuna flood plain. The floods. In the less severe floods they raise their bedspeople face riverbank erosion and floodwater inundation and wait the water out, sometimes living in the water for 3 or 4 months straight with no retreat.5
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012Cooking during the flood times is done on portable clay River erosion is another major threat to the security ofstoves or open fires. For transportation they resort to char residents. But riverbank erosion cannot bemakeshift vela rafts of jute and banana trunk. The cows predicted in the way flooding can. Char residents sayand goats that the families keep on their homestead are that it is very common and has become an integral anmoved onto velas of their own, platforms of grass, destructive part of their lives. They know how tohyacinth, and banana stalk. manage it, but in most of the cases they cope with it by voluntary displacement. The erosion of riverbank is a natural phenomenon, occurring when a river gradually changes its course through sedimentary plains. It is normally a slow and localized process but can become rapid and widespread during floods. It can swallow land, settlements, crops, all in an instant. Though it seems counter intuitive small landowners are actually the hardest hit by river erosion on the chars. These small scale farmers invest everything in their land, trying toAccording to the people; every year flood causes a make the most of a small plot and hoping for plentifulhuge damage to infrastructure (especially sanitation) harvests. More wealthy land owners, on the contrary,and helps spread diarrhea and other water borne own more land in more areas, and so will not usuallydiseases. Raised water levels inundates tube wells and lose everything in the occasion there is flooding in theerases fresh groundwater supply, leaving families only region. There is hardly any household that has notwith the flood water to drink after boiling, wasting been displaced in this Char. Further, there are someprecious fuel and risking serious illness. Latrines, often people who have been displaced for more than twentyshallow, are frequently inundated as well, adding their times due to riverbank erosion and flooding.contents to the floodwater. Livestock living on the Gaibandha also suffers from heat waves duringmakeshift rafts face higher mortality due to water summer months, as well as an increasing threat of coldexposure and reduced availability of fodder, and many snaps in the winter. Increased evapo-transpirationfamilies choose to sell livestock for a less than optimal during the heat depletes the moisture from topsoil,price rather than risk losing the asset all together. diminishing organic matter from top soil and droppingOn the Char ModdhoUria, many fortunate families have the ground water level. Cold snaps in Bangladesh haveelevated their homesteads on built-up plinth to protect claimed the lives of more than 40 people over the pasttheir homes and livestock from annual inundation. In five years, with a number of these deaths occurring inthis way they can secure their assets from normal flood; Gaibandha district. When the cold hits, straw ishowever, this practice cannot protect their homestead collected to insulate the thin walls of char homes and toentirely from moderate or severe flooding. protect from the cold sand underfoot. Precious cloth is‘If a house is burnt, it can be recovered but if a house is also used to insulate the floor. Parental instinct leadsengulfed by river, it cannot be regained’ a local saying parents and extended family to ensure the warmth ofgoes. children first and the mortality of elderly due to cold is far higher than that of any other demographic.6
  • Char ModdhoUria 20125. IRW and DIPECHO on ModdhoUriaConsidering the country’s vulnerability to naturalhazards, six international NGOs in Bangladesh(ActionAid, Concern Worldwide, Concern Universal,Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB and PlanBangladesh) have forged a strategic alliance & formeda consortium named National Alliance for RiskReduction Initiatives in Bangladesh (NARRI) with thefinancial assistance of European CommissionDirectorate General for Humanitarian Aid & Civil The presence of SKS on Char ModdhaUria is the firstProtection (ECHO). The NARRI consortium is non-governmental work to take place on that specificimplementing the 6th DIPECHO Action Plan in char. It is making people aware of their disaster risksBangladesh, running from 15 March 2011 to and in the same time, trying to make them prepared for14thSeptember, 2012. the upcoming ones by involving people in differentSKS Foundation, with assistance from Islamic Relief capacity building activities under the project.Worldwide, is implementing the DIPECHO VI project inGaibandha district, with the aim of enhancing theresilience of communities vulnerable to natural hazards.The targeted areas, including Char ModdhoUria, arevery prone to different hazards like flood, river erosion,cold waves etc. There are number of NGOs working inthe area closely with the aim of reducing vulnerability ofthe local people, but these initiatives are not sufficientfor the local communities to improve their resilience andultimately improve their economic status. There is ahuge need to do more to complement government andnon-government efforts of increasing awareness andknowledge on disaster preparedness among Effective community preparedness involves both publiccommunities and institutions in order to save lives and locations, such as schools, hospitals, markets as wellenable communities to increase their resilience to as households. Lessons in local schools on disasteremergencies. threats and corresponding appropriate responses, which are run and funded by DIPECHO, teach students and employees about the processes behind environmental hazards and how to best cope with their initiatives. These people are bringing these new knowledge and skill to home, putting them into practice, and are playing a crucial role in disseminating information.7
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012 around six feet, allowing families to remain in their homes when the waters rise. Plinth raising is a crucial disaster resistance measure that greatly increases the stability of families during floods. With raised plinth levels both people and livestock remain safe during flood and thus the community resilience to floods becomes much higher, releasing some of the stress put on finances by other flood resistance techniques or migration to the mainland.DIPECHO has organized Village Disaster Committees The funding for a particular plinth project is more or(VDC’s) as a step towards educating Char communities less split between the NAARI consortium andabout threats and resilience measures. These community input, as outlined on signs atop each plinthcommittees work together to formulate village disaster project. These interventions are also the scope of shortplans and initiate necessary actions when necessary for term income generation for the community people asthe betterment of the community especially in regards well and they are getting at least two hundred taka forto disasters. minimum forty days. NAARI provides wages for workers and technical support, while the community does its part by providing land for excavation and working a portion of the time unpaid.In addition to community awareness and preparedness,DIPECHO is undertaking a number of physicalmeasures as well in the Char of ModdhoUria like othertarget areas. The program emphasizes the aid to at risk A single plinth project takes between 25 and 30 days todemographics and prioritizes women, elderly, and complete, around 15 days of manual labor todisabled people when selecting its project beneficiaries. excavating and constructing the plinth and the rest ofThese interventions include but not limited to plinth the time to rebuild homes and livelihoods atop the newheight raising, road repairing, bridge construction, tube structure. Several measures are taken to ensure thewell and latrine setting, market cum flood shelter longevity of each plinth. The outslope of each wall ispreparing etc. which will directly address the disaster constructed as close to a 45 degree angle as possiblerisk and reduce the underlying causes of disasters in so as to reduce erosion of the slope, and variousthis area. grasses are planted as an anchor that binds soil together to make the structure stronger. Damper, morePlinth raising means raising the land beneath clusters fertile soil is carried from the pit to the top of the plinth,of homes above the highest recorded flood level,8
  • Char ModdhoUria 2012then stamped to make it extremely solid. A variety of have to suffer no more with their household assets,tree species are planted on top to further the children, and livestock during the flood season as theypermanence of the plinth. have now the elevated ground of their own, they think. Even, they assert that their raised homestead can be used as shelter for the other people who have not been covered under the project and have not that much ability to raise their plinth by their own. And this is how, these small scale mitigation activities are making the entire community more confident in survival during natural disasters. Now people at ModdhoUria do not face the nightmare of being flooded away. They are planning to have some more investment in their homestead; they are plantingThe labor for each plinth scheme is split between trees on the yard, doing homestead gardening and soworkers of different families, effectively spreading the on. They believe that their days have come back andbenefit of the added income from paid physical labor now they can move to a collective prosperity.and attempting to increase community ownership overthe projects.The implementing agency is directly paying the moneyto the house owner who later on distributes it to all theworkers worked for the plinth raising. For the entiretask, a well formulated guideline is being followed andthere is a monitoring framework developed in line withthe guideline. With this framework, every individualcomponent of this task is being monitored. There isalso a close monitoring by the community people aswell to ensure transparency and quality of the work.Not only plinth raising, rather the poor vulnerablepeople of this Char are being given a completepackage for a safe home with hygiene latrine and safetube well. In this regard, the local government hascome up with their support also from their own agendaand thus extending the combined support to thecommunity. These people had never even though abouthaving these facilities of their own but now after gettingall these things they have been confident enough tocope with the usual flood they face annually. They will9