Bangladesh is a huge delta crossed by more than 300 rivers. It is one of the most exposed and vulnerable countries in the world to natural disaster such as floods, tropical storms or cyclones.
Despite early warning and evacuation systems, climate change increases the frequency and intensity of the disasters, causing displacement, losses and poverty trap for millions.
In Bangladesh, it is not a question of whether a disaster is going to happen, but rather when it will happen and with which intensity. The populations have no other choice than to adapt. Friendship works with the communities on preparedness, response and strengthening resilience.
All specialists agree that mangroves forests are prime ecosystem to preserve and restore to fight climate change.
Friendship’s mangrove afforestation programme combines the regenerative effects of mangroves with their ability to protect landscapes from tidal surges and erosion.
Mangrove trees planted in river mudflats improve biodiversity and protect the embankments that keep saline water out of agricultural soils. The plantations will also bring economic benefits to local communities in the form of shrimps, crabs, bees, fruit, fish, twigs and thatch once the forests are mature.
In addition, as a co-benefit of this nature-based adaptation solution, mangrove trees capture five times as much carbon dioxide from the air as other types of forest.
Plinths are clusters villages raised above flood levels to provide a shelter to house displaced communities and their possessions, including cattle, during flooding.
Friendship’s plinths are equipped with safe drinking water, washrooms and infrastructure to accommodate the immediate needs of shelter seekers.
CLIMATE GEOGRAPHY COMPATIBLE INFRASTRUCTURES
Friendship has worked with the government and other NGOs to create a building standard that conforms to climatic realities across the country.
All of our buildings interact with their environment to maximise utility and sustainability.
For example, our schools are easily dismountable if the island breaks during floods but are built to endure storms; the Friendship Centre, prized by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, is built to withstand flooding, minimise its carbon footprint and complement the local climate.
Friendship provides families with access to low cost solar-powered lighting and communities with solar powered streetlights.
The river islands of the Brahmaputra where Friendship operates are completely off the power grid, due to remoteness and instable landscape caused by erosion.
The solar home lighting systems allow rural families to extend their workday into the evening hours, and students to study in the evening.
They are also healthier and safer than the old kerosene lamps.
The easily dismountable photovoltaic systems also power our schools and disaster-time mobile charging facilities. A new solar micro-grid – the first of its kind in the char areas – will supply electricity to more than 100 families.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS COMMITTEES
Friendship establishes disaster management committees in coastal and char villages, and works with them to develop strategies and prepare a risk reduction action plans for implementation during natural disasters to keep the community safe and to mitigate their impact.
Friendship Disaster Management Committees are fora in which communities can share their experiences, assess potential risks, identify needs and develop practical solutions using local knowledge and Friendship’s resources.
CLIMATE ADAPTIVE AGRICULTURE TECHNIQUES, TRAININGS & DEMONSTRATIONS
Floods and tidal surges can ruin a farmer’s investments for a planting season, leaving them with debts that are difficult to pay off.
Repeated disasters like this can bring on a cycle of debt and poverty.
Friendship trains farmers in adaptive agriculture techniques, such as saline-resistant crops and floating seed beds, and introduces alternative products such as shrimp or crabs, which are better suited to changing environments.