At last a project aimed at mitigating the impacts of the climate change on the coastal communities' life and livelihoods in Bangladesh is going to be taken up. At a time when Bangladesh has unsuccessfully pleaded for greater contribution to the climate fund by the international communities and also for closer attention to its vulnerability to global warming and consequent impacts, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and KfW, a Germany-based bank, have decided to provide $88.8 million for a project dubbed 'Coastal climate-resilient infrastructure project'. It is planned to run for six years. Why for only six years? Because by the time the project gets completed in 2018, the targeted areas are expected to boast infrastructure that might help the coastal people within the project area to better adapt to the vagaries of Nature by that time.
Now what is the magic touch that the proposed infrastructure is expected to bring to them? It concerns the construction or development of flood-resilient embankments, roads, bridges, culverts and markets along with cyclone shelters. Indeed, it is a daunting task. However, what is important is to ensure the specification and quality of the envisaged infrastructures. Already with poverty levels far above the national average, perhaps mostly due to the strikes by the Sidr and Aila within just two years and also because of invasion of salty water in crop lands on account of shrimp culture, the coastal belts in particular have deprived the inhabitants of their traditional farming and fishing. They really need to fall back upon a permanent pattern of livelihoods within their bounds.
If the embankments are so constructed that they will not give in to surging waters of cyclones and the roads, markets etc., can withstand onrushing flood waters, they will be less affected by such natural calamities than they used to be in the past. The aim is to ensure the adaptability of the poor communities, in particular, with the increasing frequencies of storms, cyclones and floods. When the poor find no work in continuous rains or inclement weather, they face income erosion and are forced to make loans at high rates of interest. So, if the roads and markets are least affected during a natural calamity, they stand the chance of getting employment. Their involvement in repair or maintenance work of the infrastructure on a long-term basis will certainly add to their benefits.
Yet this is not likely to solve their problem. Investment in employment generation activities with margins for small savings holds the key to pulling the poor out of the poverty trap. It would be in the fitness of things to introduce small and medium enterprises (SMEs) based on agricultural produces of that region. For example, sun flower and soyabean cultivation may be suitable for the area and if machines are set up for extraction of oil from these crops, a large number of people from the field level up to the marketing of oil will get employment. Initiatives like this can raise their income and thus better prepare them to adapt to the climate change.