Bangladesh eradicates poverty through flooding
Bangladesh, along with many other South Asian countries, is prone to flooding and increasing rainfall. For years, Bangladesh has suffered from one of the harshest torrential rains in the world. However, this year the country has experienced the worst of its effects. These torrential rainfalls lead to flooding in Bangladesh and this, in turn, has an adverse effect on poverty levels.

Monsoon Season in Bangladesh

In many cases, monsoon season in Bangladesh typically starts in June and can last for months, as situations worsen. According to satellite data, at least 24% of the land in Bangladesh lies submerged underwater, due to the rapid inundations. This environmental crisis affects at least 4.7 million people and most of them lose their houses and utilities. Specifically, people living along the Brahmaputra river are deprived of basic human necessities, such as food and shelter. This is because of the increased flooding this year, alone. For example, Tajul Isam, a local sharecropper, had to find creative ways to protect himself from the overflows of the Brahmaputra River, such as building bamboo sheds.

Assessing the Damage

Many officials claim the source of the floods is a result of the rampant rainfalls this past year. Through the analysis from a combination of satellites, many scientists also predict that Bangladesh will experience its longest flooding season since 1988. Again, this due to the recent, recurrent rainfalls. More than 1,200 kilometers of farmland is damaged, along with approximately 1.5 million houses affected. At least 100 people have died, either from waterborne diseases or drowning from the overflow of rivers, such as the Himalayas river and the Brahmaputra river. Fifteen districts are predicted to be affected by the rising water levels from other rivers — specifically the Padma, Ganges and Jamuna rivers.

Response to One of the Worst Monsoon Seasons in Bangladesh

Bangladesh and many others are initiating protocols in providing disaster relief funds and resources for the areas most affected by the monsoon season. The Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCCT) strategized plans to rehabilitate some of these damaged lands and provide people with resources. For example, they are currently transporting 14,000 tons of rice to over 33 districts. Additionally, they are giving over $870,000 for expenditures such as food, farming equipment and housing grants. Along with the expenditures — 50,000 farmers will receive $450,000 for tools such as fertilizers and seeds to compensate for their damaged farmland.

On top of the HCTT Response Plan, many other organizations are also taking charge to help victims of the flooding in Bangladesh. For example, the Need Assessment Working Group (NAWP) and the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) have provided at least 1,086 flood shelters to families. Specifically, these shelters went to those who lost their homes in the district of Jamalpur. Overall, however, the Start Fund Bangladesh — with the help of USAID and U.K. support — raised over $1 million to provide disaster relief in districts such as Kurigram, Gaibandha and Siraganji.

Although the government has issued many responses, smaller projects have also pursued action towards the recovery of damaged areas in Bangladesh. In particular, Friendship Organization has provided services and resources in impoverished areas— one of which is Bangladesh. As of now, they have had over 400 volunteers and 200 staff members assist in the emergency response for the monsoon season in Bangladesh. Additionally, flood shelters were provided for over 8,800 people through Friendship’s built schools and villages.

A Bright Outlook

Bangladesh has suffered through much environmental damage due to its drastic weather conditions. Nonetheless, many actors are pressing forward to ensure the safety of vulnerable communities. With the help of the Bangladeshi government and many NGO projects, Bangladesh will more than likely recover and replenish the resources that it desperately needs.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Bangladeshi Fish FarmingShrimp farming plays an essential role in Bangladeshi livelihoods, food security and foreign exchange. Prior to the 1970s, Bangladeshi shrimpers typically farmed in inland ponds that trapped tidal waters. These ponds required minimal to no feed, fertilizer or other inputs, relying instead on the natural ecosystem for shrimp production. However, they produced limited output. This article explores the environmental and economic consequences of Bangladeshi shrimp farms, as well as the potential for an alternative method for sustainable Bangladeshi fish farming with IMTA shrimp farms.

Expansion of Shrimp Farming

In the 1970s, international market demand for shrimp grew as part of the “Blue Revolution,” wherein cheap and vacuum-sealed fish appeared in the freezer aisles of grocery stores around the world. The potential for high profits led to the rapid expansion of commercial shrimp farming in Bangladesh. Today, shrimp production contributes dominantly to Bangladeshi fisheries and aquaculture, which comprise about 3.65% of the nation’s GDP. Approximately 14.7 million people depend on Bangladeshi fisheries and aquaculture for full- or part-time employment. Fish products also provide about 60% of all animal protein in the average Bangladeshi’s diet.

Shrimp farming has the potential to combat poverty, malnutrition, hunger and job insecurity among the growing population in Bangladesh, but poor shrimp farm management comes with consequences. In its current state, shrimp farming may pose more problems in Bangladesh than it can resolve.

Consequences

The rapid expansion of shrimp farming has had adverse environmental, economic and social effects in Bangladesh. Poor placement of farming systems can lead to saltwater intrusion in groundwater, deforestation and loss of mangrove forests. All of these consequences overall result in changes to local water systems and the deterioration of soil and water quality. This in turn threatens biodiversity, crop production and both supplies of potable water and critical cooking fuel.

The environmental effects of high-intensity shrimp farming in Bangladesh thus endanger human health and survival tools, particularly among people living in rural coastal areas. These individuals have limited access to alternative livelihoods. This dynamic leads to social imbalance and contributes to criminal activity in the Bangladeshi coastal regions.

The long-term environmental and social ramifications of Bangladeshi shrimp farming pose economic costs as well, including unemployment and loss of natural resources. These may outweigh the economic benefits of Bangladeshi shrimp production.

Solution for a Sustainable Future

To combat the environmental, social and economic consequences of high-intensity shrimp farming, some Bangladeshi shrimp farmers are turning to integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems. IMTA relies on natural processes to cultivate aquatic organisms at multiple trophic levels within the same farming system. Organisms within the system, including finfish, shellfish and seaweeds, interact to recycle and reuse nutrients. IMTA requires minimal external inputs and simulates natural ecosystem processes, much like shrimp farming systems prior to the 1970s Blue Revolution.

When properly executed, IMTA shrimp farms in Bangladesh can produce multiple marketable organisms, raise organism survival rates, increase biomass yield and reduce harmful nutrient concentrations in water. IMTA systems promote biodiversity by supporting production at multiple trophic levels. They relocate shrimp farms from threatened mangrove forests to open-water environments like coastal rivers and estuaries. This discourages intensive, environmentally degrading shrimp farming practices. Further, the regrowth of mangrove forests contributes to carbon capture. All of these processes increase ecosystem resiliency and bolster the long-term efficacy of sustainable Bangladeshi fish farming practices.

In 1998, Bangladesh adopted a National Fisheries Policy. The policy recognizes the detrimental effects that shrimp farming has on the nation. It seeks to optimize fishery resource use in order to encourage economic growth, feed the population, alleviate poverty and protect human and environmental health in Bangladesh. Widespread adoption of IMTA shrimp farms could facilitate sustainable Bangladeshi fish farming practices and, overall, be a step in the right direction.

Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

poverty in BangladeshLocated next to India and Myanmar, the South Asian country of Bangladesh has the eighth-highest population in the world. In Bangladesh, more than 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than $5 a day. Japanese clothing company UNIQLO, founded in 1949 and owned by the holding company Fast Retailing, is working to fight poverty in Bangladesh. UNIQLO is committed to the idea that creating and selling high-quality clothes can help create a sustainable society.

Social Business of Grameen UNIQLO in Bangladesh

In 2010, along with a microfinance organization called the Grameen Bank, Fast Retailing founded Grameen UNIQLO to solve health issues, unemployment and poverty in Bangladesh. Local factories that produce all goods for Grameen UNIQLO provide a safe and secure workplace that is not common in Bangladesh. The company educates partner companies on safe workplaces as well. The entire process of Grameen UNIQLO’s business, from producing and marketing to selling, takes place in the country. Moreover, all of Grameen UNIQLO’s revenue goes toward investing in local businesses, and the company distributes clothes for people in need due to poverty or natural disasters. Through creating jobs and reinvesting money for local business, Grameen UNIQLO has fought against poverty in Bangladesh.

Empowering Women to Be Independent

Grameen UNIQLO also focuses on empowering women and helping them be financially independent. Women traditionally tend to be financially dependent because of their limited opportunities in Bangladesh. The company provides job opportunities for women, who are referred to as the “Grameen Ladies.” These women get a low-interest loan from Grameen Bank to become financially independent, and they also work with UNIQLO to design clothes.

U.N. Educational Program for Women

The company also offers an educational program in collaboration with U.N. Women. In the program, female workers get training regarding workers’ rights, health and gender equality. The advanced training program for selected workers provides the class with the necessary skills for higher positions. The companies participating in this program believe that empowerment for women increases the competition and the overall quality of the community, helping to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. Importantly, Fast Retailing tries to gain a better understanding of the situation and the difficulties women face, so that it can address these issues more effectively.

$1 Million Scholarship Program

Fast Retailing launched a scholarship program at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh to help students who struggle to afford higher education. In addition to the scholarship program, the company also provides an internship opportunity for students to work at Grameen UNIQLO and visit the company in Tokyo. These students can gain experience in marketing, market research and management during the internship program.

Grameen UNIQLO and Fast Retailing have made efforts to fight against poverty in Bangladesh through retail business. They have created job opportunities, a scholarship program, investments in local businesses and programs to help women to be financially independent. Grameen UNIQLO has developed a great model for other businesses to support local communities, fight poverty and help people develop self-sufficiency.

– Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Flickr

Skateboarding is creating changeA skateboard for most children in the U.S. is just another toy, hobby or sport, but halfway around the world in Bangladesh, a simple skateboard deck and four wheels is becoming a beacon hope for the future. The organization Bangladesh Street Kids Aids (BSKA) for ten years now has used skateboarding as a way to connect with street children of Bangladesh.

There are approximately 600,000 children left homeless or at-risk on the city streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the country’s capital. And the harsh reality of the everyday lives of street children is reflected in the staggering 1.56 million children predicted to live on the streets by 2024. Most of these children face hunger, extreme and dangerous work conditions, drug abuse and a refusal of education on a daily basis. Many are forced to beg for food and in the entire country of Bangladesh, there is a daily average of 75 women and children sex-trafficked.

BSKA identifies these children and attempts to provide them with different resources that will guide them on a path of success through skateboarding, mentorship and education. There is a dark history of treating street children in Bangladesh as “non-human beings.” So another goal of BSKA is to instill a sense of confidence and interpersonal skills in the children that will allow them to be safe and successful in their futures and functioning members of society.

Different Ways BSKA is Making Change Through Skateboarding

  1. Skateboarding Lessons: BSKA’s skateboarding program is the second most popular service the organization offers, with their Drug Awareness and Mentorship program being the most popular. Skateboarding is creating change in the country of Bangladesh because the sport teaches discipline and determination. BSKA aims to provide its members with different skateboarding tricks within the program to boost their confidence in learning new skills, and the organization has seen many members now interacting with their community empathetically since participating in the program.
  2. Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program: According to the Bangladesh Human Rights Forum, 85% of street children in Bangladesh abused drugs in 2018. Now, skateboarding is creating change in the lives of these children because BSKA has taken it one step further and created a Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program. The program recognizes the exposure and proximity young children have to harmful drugs and began to educate their participants on the risks and consequences of drug abuse. Many street children have parents that abuse drugs themselves, which put them at a higher risk of drug use in general because of its accessibility. Also, many street children specifically in Dhaka, become addicted to inhalants to ease hunger aches and other pains. One of the most prevalent inhalants street children in Dhaka are addicted to is sniffing dendrite or glue. BSKA’s drug awareness program provides education on the adverse effects of this drug abuse and created an alternative outlet through sports teams to promote health and fitness for the country’s youth.
  3. Education: Street Children in Bangladesh are an extremely marginalized social group that lacks basic education. Many children cannot afford to attend a private school and most are often classified as “working” children and in turn, refused a public education. One of the most significant barriers street children face is that there is not a policy in Bangladesh’s government that requires 100% of children to be enrolled in school, and the National Child Policy 2011 and National Education Policy 2010 of Bangladesh exposed this flaw in the education system.

Now skateboarding is creating change in 800 Bangla children’s’ lives daily. Since the beginning of this year, BSKA has seen tangible improvements in the lives of street children through their education programs. Most of their participants are currently attending private schools, writing their names in Bangla and English, utilizing BSKA’s tutoring services and improving behavioral tendencies.

Skateboarding is becoming a popular phenomenon around the world and is recognized by millions as a legitimate sport. The 2021 Tokyo Olympic is even going to include skateboarding as an Olympic game. But BSKA sees that skateboarding is merely a stepping stone for underprivileged children and that this sport will lead them to more opportunities on a path of success and confidence.

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr

Garment Industry in Bangladesh
The garment industry in Bangladesh is the number one business in the country, accounting for 80% of the country’s exports. Four out of five of the 4.4 million workers employed in the garment industry in Bangladesh are women, so one can often consider issues facing this industry to be feminist issues. Here are five facts about the garment industry in Bangladesh including how they relate to feminism.

5 Facts About the Garment Industry in Bangladesh

  1. The garment industry in Bangladesh is huge. As previously stated, the garment industry is the number one business in the country. Bangladesh is the second-largest individual country in the world for apparel manufacturing, second only to China. H&M, Target and Marks and Spencer are among the global brands that contract with garment factories in Bangladesh for clothing production.
  2. The minimum wage is not a living wage. The average garment industry worker will work for 12 hours a day and make about $95 a month. The majority of these workers are women who support several relatives and live paycheck to paycheck. According to an international aid group Oxfam, only 2% of the price of an article of clothing that a person purchases in Australia go to the worker who made it. By contrast, a top fashion industry CEO will make in four days what a Bangladeshi garment factory worker will make in a lifetime.
  3. The garment industry in Bangladesh has a history of disaster. Two garment factory disasters, one in 2012 and one in 2013, left almost 1,200 garment factory workers dead. Following these incidents, many changes occurred to improve labor regulations and safety conditions in the garment factories. Many companies contracting with these factories also stepped up, paying full wages to workers unable to return, as well as providing compensation to injured workers and families of those who had died.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the garment industry in Bangladesh hard. Millions of workers are unemployed due to the global pandemic. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer’s Export Association (BGMEA) reported that 1,025 factories experienced cancellations of export orders totaling 864.17 million items worth $2.81 billion. The BGMEA president also reported a 50% decrease in orders and does not expect the sales to bounce back for at least another year. Although Bangladeshi law requires employers to pay severance, few actually do. There are no unemployment benefits in Bangladesh. Many displaced garment workers fear that they will die of starvation if they do not die of COVID-19 first.
  5. Pre-existing shortcomings of the Bangladeshi garment industry are being highlighted. Longstanding issues of the industry include a lack of unity among the 16 trade unions, political pressure by industry owners and big brands, loopholes in the country’s labor laws and a disconnect between a practical living wage and the legal minimum wage. After most factories shut down because of COVID-19, the Bangladeshi government issued a $600 million bailout for all manufacturing industries in Bangladesh. The garment sector received the majority of this, but the amount barely covered about a month’s salary for all the workers in the garment industry.

Despite the seemingly dire state of the garment industry in Bangladesh in the face of constant poverty coupled with a global pandemic, some are making many efforts and are continuing to implement them in order to better the industry. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has launched many efforts to better the garment industry in Bangladesh since the disasters of 2012 and 2013. One of these efforts is called the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) program which offers career progression opportunities for female sewing operators. They receive training in the soft and technical skills necessary for them to assume supervisory positions. The program also trains managers on how to select, promote and support female workers in the industry. Since the launch of this program, IFC has trained over 140 female sewing operators in 28 factories, 60% of whom received promotion weeks after completing the training. Remake, a nonprofit in San Francisco that aims to make the global fashion industry more humane and environmentally sustainable, has launched another effort. Recently, Remake has pressured big brands to pay back contractors in Bangladesh for whatever they ordered before the pandemic. Of these brands, 16 have already agreed to do so.

Caroline Warrick-Schkolnik
Photo: Flickr

Blue Economy
With over 70% of the world covered by the ocean, economists across the world are working to discover ways to integrate its varied resources into the world economy. One of the newest and most innovative visions of the future of the marine economy is termed the “Blue Economy.” This vision states that the responsible use and stewardship of the world’s maritime resources can be used as a tool for unprecedented economic growth, the fight against world poverty and the sustainability of the ocean environment. The strategic and sustainable use of the oceans has incredible growth potential and is also appearing to be a key factor in the development of small island nations.

Growth Potential

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has projected that by 2030, the ocean economy will double from 2010 levels, adding $3 trillion to the global economy.  The World Bank has already invested $3.67 billion USD in its Blue Economy program, underscoring the universal acceptance of its potential. Today, fisheries contribute $270 billion USD  to the global economy, and with more sustainable fishing practices in place, their contribution to the global GDP will only continue to grow. Eighty percent of global trade currently operates via ocean transport and, according to the World Bank, the volume of seaborne trade is expected to quadruple by 2050.

One country that is currently experiencing the results of the Blue Economy is Bangladesh. Bangladesh has large growth potential in the maritime arena given that, according to the World Bank, it has recently gained international clearance to use the resources of a 121,110 square kilometer marine area “equivalent to more than 80 percent of the country’s total land area”.  The highest growth sectors of the new Bangladeshi Blue Economy are fisheries, shipbuilding, offshore renewable energy, shipping and tourism.  The World Bank projects that further key investments in the Blue Economy could produce a “ten-fold increase” in the production of aquaculture in Bangladesh. The prospect of job creation and economic transformation for the country’s poorest coastal populations is promising.

Includes the World’s Poor

Some of the world’s poorest countries have broad access to ocean resources: thus, the integration of the Blue Economy could provide economic benefits for countries and individuals as well as greater food security and improved health. By reducing pollution in the oceans, more people could be able to find work in the booming aquaculture economy. Governments’ efforts to maintain sustainability has the potential to increase their transparency and stability, leading to better resources for their citizens. Rising ocean levels disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries; however, the blue economy will work to stem these changes.

Evidence of the inclusivity of the Blue Economy comes from the West African nation of the Gambia. In 2012, an organization of female oyster harvesters gained exclusive rights from the Gambian government to a key fishery. Due to the high quality of the local natural resources, the price of oysters harvested in this area doubled. As a result, nearly 400 women in the organization gained access to microloans and financial literacy programs able to aid in their fight against poverty.

Future Focused

The Blue Economy has a focus on sustainable technologies. Offshore renewable energy would provide small developing island and coastal nations with many high demand jobs in addition to energy benefits. Offshore renewable energy is more reliable than land-based technologies and does not have the same adverse effects on the environment that fossil fuels do. Offshore renewable energy is taking off across the globe, and if the world’s poorest countries are included in its growth, it could lead to developmental benefits for those nations.

The Blue Economy is a vision for the future that maximizes sustainability, production and anti-poverty mechanisms. Since many of the world’s poorest countries have a lot of access to ocean resources, aquaculture could provide them with new economic possibilities. With rising ocean levels, which have a greater effect on poorer countries, the Blue Economy could stem those changes and hold the key to a more prosperous future.

Garrett O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in BangladeshHuman trafficking is defined by the United Nations as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception.” Put simply, it is the sale of human beings for labor, sexual abuse or forced prostitution. Trafficking affects people across almost every nation, but the U.N. has seen recent trends that show developing nations are a breeding ground for human trafficking. These nations generally have a higher percentage of people who are at risk of human trafficking. This is because there are many vulnerable impoverished people and undocumented immigrants who can be easily manipulated.

The most common tactic used by traffickers to attract men and women for illegal labor is the promise of a better life, better pay to feed their families and security from the violence and war in their nations. This is often due to a lack of support, opportunities and help from their own governments, which make it tantalizing for people to accept all offers of better wages and a new life.

Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the majority of traffickers look for Rohingya migrants from Myanmar, promising them asylum and work in Europe. This is the result of a large influx of Burmese migrants in 2017 due to violence and discrimination. Approximately one million Rohingya are undocumented in Bangladeshi refugee camps, meaning they are desperate for work, homes and support. Traffickers prey on undocumented immigrants because they are invisible to their communities and to the government. Thus, their disappearances go unreported due to the families of victims fearing deportation or imprisonment.

Rohingya women and children are the most vulnerable for human trafficking in Bangladesh. They are often promised housekeeping and nanny work in private homes and hotels. However, this is only to have their passports and identification stolen and to be sold into sex trafficking. Girls are sold into prostitution as young as 10 years old. It is also worth noting that Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage under age 15, although a 1929 doctrine outlawed marriage under age 18. In Bangladesh, 59% of girls are married before age 18, and 22% are married before age 15. Girls trafficked in Bangladesh are often forced to marry, another tactic used by traffickers to create bonds with their victims.

Progress in Ending Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

In 2019, the United States made a major stride in punishing and resolving human trafficking in Bangladesh. USAID’s Bangladesh Counter for Trafficking in Persons partnered with the Forensic Training Institute and the Bangladesh police on a five-day training program on human trafficking. This event was highly successful, and the U.S. continues to work closely with Bangladesh on the issue. Furthermore, the U.S. has invested $8 million in shelters and programs for trafficking victims. The Bangladeshi and American governments also created a program to take place from 2018 to 2022 that works to reform trafficking policies. It creates new standards for officers and works to improve interagency communication through protocol. This partnership has led to a new awareness of human trafficking. Thanks to these new initiatives, Bangladesh has improved from Tier 3 to Tier 2 on the Human Trafficking Watchlist.

Bangladesh, with the assistance of USAID, is making strides in prosecuting traffickers and making resources for victims more accessible, such as taking the mental and physical effects of trafficking more seriously. Hopefully, this new motivation will continue, and Bangladesh will see less trafficking and stricter punishment of traffickers.

Raven Heyne

Photo: Pixabay

IMTA Shrimp Farms in Bangladesh
Shrimp farming plays an essential role in Bangladeshi livelihoods, food security and international trade. Prior to the 1970s, Bangladeshi shrimpers typically farmed in inland ponds formed by trapped tidal waters. These ponds only require minimal or no feed, fertilizer, or other inputs. Instead, they rely on the natural ecosystem for shrimp production, but they produce limited output. The expansion of shrimp farming for maximum output has had several environmental and economic consequences, but there exist options for a sustainable future.

Expansion of Shrimp Farming

In the 1970s, international market demand for shrimp grew during the “Blue Revolution,” wherein cheap and vacuum-sealed fish appeared in the freezer aisles of grocery stores around the world. The potential for high profits led to the rapid expansion of commercial shrimp farming in Bangladesh. Today, shrimp production is a major contributor to Bangladeshi fisheries and aquaculture, which both comprise about 3.65% of the nation’s GDP.  Approximately 14.7 million people depend on Bangladeshi fisheries and aquaculture for full- or part-time employment. They also provide about 60% of the animal protein in the average Bangladeshi’s diet.

Shrimp farming has the potential to combat poverty, malnutrition, hunger and job insecurity among the growing population in Bangladesh, but poor shrimp farm management comes with consequences.  In its current state, the long-term effects of shrimp farming may pose more problems in Bangladesh than it can resolve.

Consequences

The rapid expansion of shrimp farming has had adverse environmental, economic and social effects in Bangladesh. Poor placement of farming systems can lead to saltwater intrusion in groundwater, deforestation and loss of mangrove forests, all of which result in changes in local water systems and the deterioration of soil and water quality. This in turn threatens biodiversity, crop production, supplies of potable water and critical cooking fuel. The environmental effects of high-intensity shrimp farming in Bangladesh threaten human health and survival tools, particularly among those living in rural coastal areas who have limited access to alternative livelihoods. This conflict creates social imbalance and contributes to criminal activity in the Bangladeshi coastal regions.

In the long term, Bangladeshi shrimp farming poses economic costs including unemployment and loss of natural resources. These may outweigh the economic benefits of Bangladeshi shrimp production.

Solution for a Sustainable Future

To combat the environmental, social and economic consequences of high-intensity shrimp farming, some Bangladeshi shrimp farmers are turning to integrated multitrophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems. IMTA relies on natural processes to cultivate aquatic organisms at multiple trophic levels within the same farming system. Organisms within the system, including finfish, shellfish and seaweeds, interact to recycle and reuse nutrients. IMTA requires minimal external inputs and simulates natural ecosystem processes, much like shrimp farming systems prior to the 1970s Blue Revolution.

If properly executed, IMTA shrimp farms in Bangladesh can produce multiple marketable seafood products, increase organism survival rate, increase biomass yield and reduce harmful nutrient concentrations in water. IMTA systems promote biodiversity by valuing production at multiple trophic levels. They relocate Bangladeshi shrimp farms from threatened mangrove forests to open-water environments like coastal rivers and estuaries. This discourages intensive, environmentally degrading shrimp farming practices, and the regrowth of mangrove forests contributes to carbon capture. All of these processes increase ecosystem resiliency, which bolsters the long-term sustainability of IMTA shrimp farms in Bangladesh.

In 1998, Bangladesh adopted a National Fisheries Policy. The policy recognizes the detrimental effects that shrimp farming has on the nation, and it seeks to optimize fishery resource use in order to encourage economic growth, feed the population, alleviate poverty and protect human and environmental health.  Widespread adoption of IMTA shrimp farms could be another step in the right direction for sustainable aquaculture in Bangladesh.

Avery Saklad
Photo: FLickr

homelessness in bangladeshBangladesh, a small country located in South Asia, is the eighth-most populous in the world, home to over 160 million people. It is no surprise that the majority of inhabitants reside in crowded cities; 21 million people live in the capital of Dhaka alone. With a vast population concentrated in such a narrow region, space and resources are in short supply. Almost one in four people live in poverty, and homelessness in Bangladesh is prominent; five million people live without housing and 124 million live in mud houses and slums.

Poverty and Homelessness

Poverty and homelessness have an intertwined relationship; circumstances of poverty — such as debt, lack of education, poor mental and physical health and disability — are underlying causes of homelessness.

The homeless population in Bangladesh, especially women abandoned by their spouses and too poor to provide for themselves, are exposed to many instances of violence, drug abuse and sexual assault. A study conducted in 2009 found that 83% of homeless female respondents were assaulted by their husbands, male police officers and other men in their vicinity. 69% of the male respondents used locally-available drugs, such as heroin, and two-thirds of injecting drug-users shared needles.

Progress

Despite these harsh realities, regional homelessness in Bangladesh has actually improved and poverty rates have dropped over the years. According to the Bangladesh Poverty Assessment conducted by the World Bank Group, the country halved poverty rates since 2000. More than 25 million people were lifted from these conditions.

Under the Bangladesh Awami League’s Ashrayan Project-2, a plan to help the homeless become economically independent, a total of 297,886 families have been rehabilitated. The first two phases of the scheme were successfully completed in 2010 and the final phase is expected to be completed by June 2022.

Rural regions in the country, namely Chittagong, Barisal and Sylhet, have seen most of this decline. They account for 90% of all poverty reduction that occurred from 2010 to 2016. Even despite the cyclones in Bangladesh that account for 70% of all storm surges in the world, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim says that “Bangladesh has adapted to climate threats, putting in place early warning systems, cyclone shelters, evacuation plans, coastal embankments and reforestation schemes.” The remoteness of these rural areas is the ideal grounds to invest in infrastructure and educate the populations there who live each day hand to mouth, wondering what may come tomorrow.

Homelessness Relief: Habitat for Humanity

When it comes to the fight against homelessness, non-governmental organizations such as Habitat for Humanity have provided Bangladeshi people with affordable housing, clean water and safe sanitation, training in construction technology and even disaster mitigation. In Dhaka, Habitat Bangladesh started its first urban project with the revamping of three slums. With help from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the organization helped 9,000 people through housing construction and renovations; this included the construction of water pumps, drainage systems and walkways, as well as bathhouses and community toilets.

Looking Toward the Future

As urbanization takes place, projections point towards more than half of Bangladesh’s poor households living in urban areas by 2030. But this requires adequate housing and transforming more slums into decently habitable homes and communities. The Bangladesh government’s draft of a National Urban Policy aims for sustainable urbanization. The policy visualizes a decentralized urban development; a place where the central and local governments, private sector, civil society and people all have important roles to play. The seventh Five Year Plan proposes allocating resources to address urbanization through the Annual Development Programme, though a feasible urbanization policy is still in the works.

Even further, educating and empowering the populations migrating to and residing in the cities, expanding the female labor workforce, fighting poverty and consistently innovating will help this nation achieve its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income nation by 2021. It is important to continue investing in projects and policies that are helping fight homelessness in Bangladesh; much progress has been made and much is yet to be done.

– Sarah Uddin
Photo: Pixabay

Environmental Displacement in Bangladesh
The sea is slowly swallowing the coast of Bangladesh. Meanwhile, inland erosion along riverbanks is eating away much of the arable land. With 50% of Bangladeshis living as farmers, their livelihoods are quickly becoming unsustainable, and many are being left with only one option: migration.

Rising Waters

Over thousands of years, the rivers that lace Bangladesh have forged the land. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers deposited sediment that eventually made up the Ganges Delta. Constant flooding has made the soil incredibly fertile, but it also has made environmental displacement in Bangladesh one of the most pressing issues in Asia.

Projections determine that the country will lose 11% of its land by 2050 because of sea-level rise. Most notably, the increased melting of glaciers in the Himalayas is eroding river banks and destroying 10,000 hectares of land a year.  

Consequently, 87% of Bangladeshi people living in disaster-prone areas have been either temporarily or permanently displaced by flooding, riverbank erosion or sea-level rise. Many of these people move to Dhaka, the densely populated capital city, or across the border into India. 

The Environment’s Impact on Migration

“The impacts of environmental degradation are almost always felt among the poorest populations,” said Pablo Bose, an Associate Professor at the University of Vermont. Dr. Bose studies geography and has published comprehensive research on environmental displacement in Bangladesh, as well as across the globe. 

Unfortunately, few places have accepted these environmental migrants with open arms. India has a 2,000-kilometer fence on its border and a shoot-to-kill policy for anyone trying to cross over from Bangladesh, including unarmed villagers. 

Dhaka, on the other hand, is very accepting of its domestic, rural migrants. However, the population increase has exacerbated pollution, congestion and poverty throughout the capital city. With 13 million people in just 125 square miles, much of the city’s infrastructure is struggling to function

Dr. Bose sees Bangladesh as a “hotspot” for learning about environmental displacement. Globally, projections determine that 200 million people will be at risk from sea-level rise by 2100, so the solutions Bangladesh discovers will be relevant to the entire world in the following century. 

Exploring Solutions

But what options are there to reduce environmental displacement in Bangladesh? From the environmental perspective, there are actually quite a few: as Dr. Bose said, “Our vulnerability to environmental disasters has a lot to do with our choices.” 

For Bangladesh, this process may mean creating further conservation protections for the Sundarbans, which is a mangrove forest located on the southern coast of the country. This area provides the country with essential ecosystem services. For instance, the Sundarbans maintain the health of fisheries and protect the land from hurricanes. 

To prevent environmental displacement inland, the government could work towards planting trees beside rivers. Tree roots help keep the soil of river banks compact, reducing the amount of erosion from rainfall and Himalayan glacier melt. 

The question of how to reintegrate environmentally displaced people is somewhat more complex. The case of  Bangladeshi migrants in India demonstrates the deep influence of socio-political and historical factors. “The question of how we welcome people is a question of how we understand these issues,” Dr. Bose said on the subject, adding, “a lot of who we accept is about identity.” Perhaps viewing migrants as people who experienced environmental challenges, rather than as citizens of a foreign, Islamic country, will help better understand environmental displacement in Bangladesh.

Ultimately, every country in the world may experience environmental difficulties. For this reason, the impacts of environmental displacement in Bangladesh are relevant to every person.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr