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.  

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