Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Urbanization in a Changing Environment: A Reference of Cyclone Aila

by  Uthpal Kumar and Rashed Jalal 

Urbanization is a dynamic process. The pattern of urbanization in any specific location depends on various social, economic and environmental phenomena. Khulna, the third largest metropolitan city of Bangladesh, located in the southwest coastal region, is vulnerable to climate change and unplanned urbanization. Khulna suffers from recurrent natural and human made disasters, and contributes to the increased urbanization processes at a significant rate. Recently, we visited some urban huts and peri-urban sites of Khulna to understand how climate change and natural disasters impact on urbanization process in Khulna. Our field observations show that climate-related disasters force people to migrate from different vulnerable coastal settings to the urban and peri-urban fringes in Khulna, who are also designated as climate change migrants, climate refugees or environmental refugees by several articles and case studies.

Life in a single room house in the city -  Hanif Gazi and his family
In May 2009, Cyclone Aila forced to migrate about 2856 families and 14551 populations in Khulna city.  A local study (Mehedi, 2010) identified that all these migrated households took shelter in the urban and peri-urban areas in 41 locations. However, with time migrated people were spread over the country and sometimes beyond the country boundary. The main causes of such migration were washout of total livelihood assets that they had. The initial tendency of majority of the migrated population was to settle down in the peri-urban areas rather than in the city, as living costs are significantly lesser in the peri-urban areas the urban. Besides, migrated people were not able to manage their livelihood in the city, that’s why they chose to find their home in the peri-urban areas. Although two years have already passed, the overwhelming impact of cyclone Aila is still noticeable. Recently, we had a detailed interview with some Aila affected families who are still fighting for their survival in the urban and peri-urban locations. We talked to know their present and past livelihood and asked for future adaptation choice in this changing environment.

Md. Hnaif Gaz (32) and his family lived at Satalia village of Moheshsaripur union in Koyra before Aila shock. Total family members of Mr. Gazi are 6 (male 2, female 4). Mr Hanif Gazi and his father were into fish business in Koyra. Now he and his family have been living at a rented house at 2-No. Kastom Ghat area, Khulna. At present Mr. Gazi is speechless after losing all their arrangements of livelihood. Mrs. Gazi said that they had 10 bighas agricultural land, fishing nets, boat and livestock. But now they have nothing. She added that their house rent is Tk. 2600 and from last two months their house rent is pending. Before Aila struck, Mr. Gazi and his father’s income was about 12-15 thousand per month.  However, Cyclone Aila has washed out their entire livelihood options. His wife and mother informed that they are feeling bored in the city life and wish to get back to their own land at Koyra. We asked them the main reason of migration in Khulna city to which Gazi’s mother answered that drinking water crisis was the main cause of their migration. She said that after Aila they were for three days in Koyra and all of their family members were affected with diarrhea due to absence of fresh drinking water. Till now drinking water is the main problem in their village, and therefore they cannot return back at Koyra. Mr. Gazi said that 75% of the villagers were left the villages because of drinking water crisis, absence of sanitation facilities and no job opportunities. Government pledged to give Tk 20000 to each affected family but still it has not been given. They said that NGOs have been constructing a toilet at the affected villages, but this is not sufficient for all the affected families. They also said that government should help by repairing the houses and reconstruction of community based drinking supply. Community based drinking water pond, pond sand filter (PSF) and rain water harvesting system (RWHs) would be some possible options for better adaptation in this respect. Finally, Mr. Gazi and his family members told us that strengthening and heightening of polder (embankment) is needed for future adaptation to climate change and natural disasters situation in their locality. 

Mr. Abdul  Hamid Gazi is waiting to go 
back to his home in the village from the city
Mr. Abdul Hamid Gazi, Age 60, Ex-staff of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB). He is retired from his job but from last two years he has been living in Khulna as his house was lost by the Cyclone Aila on 25 May 2009.  Mr. Gazi’s original house is in Kamarkhola, Dacope, the most affected union in Dacope. Now he is counting the days to go back home from Khulna. He expects to back home this year because embankment is already improved at his site. He got a support to build a tin shed room of 8x15ft from a local NGO. He also said that 200 houses have already been built out of 400 affected houses in his village. At present drinking water scarcity is the major problem at his site. Mr. Abdul Hamid Gazi expects that this situation would be better by the governmental and non-governmental initiatives and finally he wishes to live the rest of his life on his parents’ land.   

Reference: Mehedi (2010), “Shekorhin Manusher Kotha: A socio-economic study on Aila victims who took shelter in Khulna”, Humaniwatch, Boyra, Khulna.  

Stakeholders' Meeting at Jhaukhel

Stakeholders’ Meeting at Jhaukhel VDC has been finally conducted. The efforts encouragingly paid out with enthusiastic participation of the local stakeholders. The meeting was conducted in the VDC office in the afternoon on Friday, 6th May, 2011.

The programme began with welcome note and a brief introduction session, followed by a brief on the Peri-urban Water Security Research Project. The program was then handed over to Prof. Shukla where about, he engrossed the participants through his elaborations on the research details, including objectives, research partners, funding organization and the till date achievements of the research explaining selected sites in Nepal and the criteria behind finalizing the sites. Prof. Shukla also drew attention towards the increasing urbanization pattern and changing situation of water availability in the context of increasing urbanization and climatic uncertainty with instances from different parts of the world.
Proceeding the programme, the local stakeholders raised their queries which were very relevant. In the context of different research organization operating in the VDC, their major query was on the scope of the research. A very candid question raised was the research likely to be limited as exploratory documentation or will be able to provide direct physical support for improving water availability for the local residents. The toughest part of clarifying the limitation of the research at the same time justifying research rationale was very smoothly clarified by Prof. Shukla. He highlighted the need and advantage of well established documentation of the existing reality prior to pressuring the concerned governmental body or for entitlement of support from any non-government organization. Regarding this, the research could provide substantial science based information on the over looked linkage between sand mining and depleting ground water level for optimal level of resources extraction, both sand and ground water in case of Jhaukhel which could eventually be fruitful in lessening the travails of people.
In the last few years, Environment Conservation Forum, a local NGO has   been relatively active in the VDC and a NGO called ENPHO has been working in the Jhaukhel VDC. The discussion in the programme brought forward the increasing multiple water claimants in the VDC and the changing context of water management where rampant sand mining and unregulated ground water extraction and menacing risk of water crisis and land subduction has been growing concern. The Environment Conservation Forum representatives shared experiences of their efforts in bringing forward the growing rampant sand and water extraction in the VDC to the concerned government organization however being limited by the power play behind the huge monetary transactions.
A participant from the Environment Conservation Forum, raised his interest towards the methodological basis of the research to which Prof. Shukla as the Team Leader, succinctly pointed out the methods to be followed included primary data collection through Household Survey, FGD, Vulnerability Assessment and Study of Adaptive/Coping Strategy of local community, Water Quality Analysis and so on. In the meantime, VDC Secretary was to work in co-ordination with these organizations to avoid duplicating the research and covering the needed but still uncovered aspects of the area to which Prof. Shukla also explained the research of students in the VDC itself would also be valuable information resource and agreed to develop co-ordination with the concerned organizations.
The research co-ordinator, Mr. Rajesh Sada proposed for organizing relevant programmes for capacity building of the local people in adapting against climate and urbanization induced insecurity where VDC as local government, Nepal Engineering College and local organization operating in VDC could co-work. Environment Conservation Forum has shown keen interest in cooperating for the research with which the nec research team will be working in close co-ordination by formally defining a Memorandum of Understanding in the meeting to be organized as per convenience in very near future.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unraveling local parlance in Peri-urban Gurgaon

The peri-urban villages in Gurgaon continue to be repository of learning and experiences. The primary source of this learning has been people themselves. Among many such learning opportunities, one has been an introduction to the local/village parlance. From the perspective of research, sometimes they impede understanding of the information/data generated, however, most of the times they enrich and enable better understanding of the village issues in general and water issues to be specific. Overall, an understanding of the local parlance is very important for our research and thus merits a special mention as part of field experiences. This blog post will try to unravel the mystery behind the local parlance! 

One of the most common terms used by the villagers is ‘Jheel’. A neophyte would imagine this as a water body! However, only with further probing and fieldwork, it was realized that it meant ‘a low lying area’. So, when someone says that his land is in ‘Jheel’, it simply means that his land is in a low lying area and thus is prone to water logging. Another set of frequently used terms are with respect to specifying the area of land. These terms are Kila, Kanaal and Marla. One Kila land is equal to an acre of land. Further denominations are as follows – 1/8th of a Kila is equal to 1 Kanaal which in turn is equal to 20 Marla. When it comes to water, the villagers use the term ‘paani kood gaya– which simply means that the water has reached.

The exposure to local parlance can be considered to be incomplete without visiting the office of local Patwari.  It was during one such visit that we were exposed to barrage of local terms like – Rakba, Kaashta, gair-kaashta, Chahi, Chiknot, Narmot, etc. Rakba means the total area of the village; Kaashta means the total agricultural land; gair-kaashta means the total non-agricultural land; Chahi means area of land irrigated by water; Chiknot and Narmot stand for soil types viz. clayey soil and a type of soil which is neither sandy nor clayey, respectively. As if the sudden exposure to so much of local parlance was not enough, a visit to the block office further increased our exposure! When asked about availability of the village maps, the Tehsheeldaar mentioned about two types of maps – Akseejara and Masadi. Akseejara is a village map prepared on cloth and is big in size. Masadi on the other hand is a smaller size map made on paper.

Apart from the terms mentioned above, there are many more terms that one gets to hear in the field, which belong to the local parlance. The difficulty in understanding these terms may impede ones ability to do an analysis. However, with continued effort, proper understanding of these terms not only adds value but also beauty to the research!  

Monthly update (May) – Gurgaon project

One of our team members, Mr. Pranay Ranjan participated in the ‘Second Evaluation Conference – Impact Evaluation Praxis’ organized by Sambodhi. Some of the speakers in the conference were – Dr. Howard White from 3ie, Dr. Amitabh Kundu from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dharmendra from Sambodhi and Dr. Aradhna Aggarwal from University of Delhi. The objective of the conference was to enhance understanding of the theory and practice of impact evaluation, to sensitize on state-of-art methods of impact evaluation and to initiate dialogue on evidence-policy interface. 

The Gurgaon team members also met Mr. Indranil Niyogi from Sambodhi to seek his guidance in firming up the questionnaires of Gurgaon and Hyderabad team. The Gurgaon team will meet Sambodhi members once again during the next week.  

The Gurgaon team was joined by Mr. Anjan Chamuah on 16th May. He is a student of Master’s in Development studies from IIT Guwahati. He will be involved with the household survey for next two months. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stakeholders Meetings and Awareness Programmes in Peri-Urban Hyderabad

The Hyderabad team of the Peri-urban Project organised a week-long series of stakeholders meetings, interactions, and awareness programmes across the field villages. Apart from the village locals - various other stakeholders like the sarpanch, director of water users association, water plant owners, farmers, representations from watershed committee, gated-community, self-help groups, village secretary, ward members, and activists were part of the meetings conducted in Aliabad, Ravirala, and Mallampet villages near Hyderabad. The prime objective of the meeting was to share findings from the scoping study to the community and hear their opinions regarding it. It also provided a good platform to understand perspectives and receive suggestions by varied stakeholders regarding possible interventions that could be undertaken in the village. Discussions on local capacity-building were understood and avenues for collaborating with relevant organizations explored. 

Through these discussions, the villagers shared many issues and problems, especially related to the quality and availability of their water sources. Groundwater in few of the villages is unfit – not just for drinking, but also for agriculture purposes as it is highly polluted. Water channels that help in filling up of the nearby lake are encroached upon leading to the surface water bodies almost never filling up. Since water canals to the village bring water to the fields only when the lakes are full, the village cannot even rely on surface water for its agricultural needs. This is threatening the livelihoods of farmers to a large extent, who are usually forced to sell their lands to private developers which is far more profitable as these peri-urban areas are very sought after for real estate development. Apart from this, effluents from industries contribute to a lot of surface and ground water pollution. Rampant sand mining is also taking place in two villages which has affected the sub-surface water flow which is one of the reasons why the lakes are shrinking. Other problems emerge due to improper water management, lack of any village level functional committee looking at the problems, and ensuing local political dynamics and vested interests by the powerful. 

However, the underlying point in every meeting was the fact that the villagers were very open to support and cooperate with the project team and ensure some concrete actions are taken to improve their present situation. Based on these discussions and suggestions, the team has charted out its future plan of action and interventions for each village so that there are some significant ways that the issues at the ground level are addressed.

The week concluded with awareness programmes that were organised in each of the villages in the form of street plays. Highlighting issues of urbanisation, water security, pollution, and implications due to the changing climate, the cultural group creatively explained these issues to large audiences in each village.