Report / Paper
Local Perspective on Loss and Damage in the Context of Extreme Events: Insights from Cyclone-affected Communities in Coastal Bangladesh
ORGANISER: Germanwatch, Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), United Nations University – Institute for Human and Environment Security (UNU-EHS), International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN)
Cover: Local Perspective on Loss and Damage in the Context of Extreme Events: Insights from Cyclone-affected Communities in Coastal Bangladesh
This paper investigates how loss and damage from extreme events is being experienced at the local level – in this case cyclones in the coastal region of Khulna – and what approaches are being used to address it. To better understand how communities in Bangladesh are experiencing loss and damage from extreme events, in this case cyclones Sidr (2007) and Aila (2009), primary research was undertaken in six affected communities in Khulna. Based on surveys and semi-structured interviews, the study sought to better understand the losses and damages experienced by these communities as a result of the cyclones. The desk-based component of the research undertaken for this paper examined the initial response of the government and other humanitarian agencies to provide post cyclone relief and facilitate recovery. The paper also provides an overview of gaps and needs and provide recommendations to better address loss and damage from cyclones and other extreme events at the local level.
Many of those surveyed during the study suffered extensive loss and damage during cyclones Sidr and Aila, losing their livelihoods, homes and productive assets, among other losses and damages incurred. Some of the community members interviewed during the study reported that they were left destitute in the wake of Sidr and Aila. Cyclone Aila in particular led to significant emigration as a result of a loss of livelihood opportunities in the six villages. The cyclones also had long-term implications on food security as rice harvests significantly decreased, fisheries were greatly affected and freshwater supplies diminished in the wake of increased salinisation. In response to the adverse impacts of the cyclones, affected communities adopted a variety of coping strategies, some of which led them to be worse off than before. For instance, children in some households were taken out of school so that they could contribute to income generating activities and help to sustain the livelihood of their families, an erosive coping strategy that could cause an intergenerational transfer of poverty and vulnerability (UNICEF, 2009).
The study – and the literature review that supplemented it – found that the humanitarian support provided by both government and non-government organisations (mainly the provision of food and other basic necessities) was instrumental in supporting livelihoods and ensuring the immediate survival of the affected communities. Most of the interventions, however, were short-term and development efforts to build communities that are more resilient to extreme events like cyclones in the long term – at least in the communities surveyed – have been lacking.
The study concludes that loss and damage could have been reduced by wider embankment coverage and the proper maintenance of existing embankments as well as afforestation efforts to conserve coastal mangroves. In addition, early warning systems need to be improved so that risks can be better understood – and responded to – by communities. The is also a need for enhanced provision of climate resilient crops like saline tolerant crop varieties and more training programmes to enhance the capacity of farmers to respond to a changing climate was identified during the study. The study concludes that the government should formulate policies that ensure the proper distribution of relief and rehabilitation along with those that address loss and damage from extreme events and ultimately promote climate resilient development.