The critical role of communities in determining priorities for adapting to the impacts of climate change was emphasised during a National Consultation organised by BRAC and the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in Dhaka.
The event was attended by Habibun Nahar, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) along with Dr. Farhina Ahmed, Secretary, MoEFCC. The Mayors of Patuakhali and Kuakata, community representatives from Mongla, and over 60 national stakeholders participated in the consultation focused on efforts to build climate-resilient and migrant-friendly towns in Bangladesh.
With over 50% of urban residents in Bangladesh living in informal settlements, addressing their vulnerability is a key priority. At the same time, supporting secondary cities in planning for climate-induced migration has the potential to reduce informality while fostering economic growth, thereby transforming a potential burden into an opportunity. Goal 3 of Bangladesh’s National Adaptation Plan underscores the need for Climate-Smart Cities for improved urban environment and well-being.
In pursuit of this Goal, BRAC and GCA are supporting the development of Climate Resilient, Migrant-Friendly Towns in Bangladesh, with support from the UK Government. Over the past year, work has been going on in Mongla, the second-largest seaport in the country, to engage communities living in informal settlements. This effort has involved mapping their settlements, identifying key climate vulnerabilities, and developing People’s Climate Resilience Plans.
The process leverages the extensive experience of BRAC and SPARC, an affiliate organisation of Slum Dwellers International, in mobilising and supporting communities to plan through a locally-led process. In Mongla, the communities have worked under the leadership of Mayor Sheikh Abdur Rahman, to identify and prioritise solutions for the significant climate threats they face. These threats primarily encompass rising salinity levels and the scarcity of freshwater. Even though there is a scarcity of fresh water, the influx of migrants into Mongla is increasing, driven by both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors in the southwestern region.
Push factors involve climate hazards and a lack of economic opportunities in Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barishal, Khulna, Noakhali, and Satkhira. On the other hand, pull factors involve the increasing economic opportunities in Mongla due to its Port, the inauguration of Padma Bridge, and the declaration of Mongla as an Export Processing Zone.
The Locally-Led Adaptation (LLA) approach, modelled in Mongla will now be extended to three new paurashavas - Patuakhali, Kuakata, and Bhola. This extension aims to guide investments under the Coastal Towns Climate Resilience Project (CTCRP), financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and implemented by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED).
Deputy Minister Habibun Nahar expressed her special interest in seeing the progress of the implementation of the plan developed in Mongla, which also happens to be her constituency.
Community representatives from Mongla shared how this process has enabled them to understand the implications of climate change for their locality and to devise corresponding solutions. “We appeal to the mayor, the municipality, and MoEFCC to support us in implementing the solutions,” said Chompa Begum from Narikeltola Guccho Gram, Mongla Port municipality.
Special Guest Dr. Farhina Ahmed emphasised the value of utilising existing local government structures to channel funds to implement solutions. She also highlighted the significance of the National Strategy on Internal Displacement Management, which outlines the planned rehabilitation of internally displaced individuals in Bangladesh.
Anju Sharma, Global Lead on Locally-Led Adaptation Programme, reaffirmed GCA’s commitment to collaborative efforts with the government and development partners for the implementation of priority solutions identified through the People’s Plans in Mongla.
A panel discussion was moderated by Professor Saleemul Huq, Director, International Center for Climate Change and Development. Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, Additional Secretary, MOEFCC, emphasised the importance of traditional knowledge in the development of adaptation solutions. The mayors emphasised the importance of active engagement of community members in designing and implementing sustainable adaptation solutions.
Dr. Md. Sarwar Bari, Director General of the Monitoring, Inspection and Evaluation wing, Local Government Division (LGD), highlighted the importance of building the capacity of local government representatives for the effective implementation LLA solutions. He also stressed the importance of incorporating lessons from other LLA projects across Bangladesh.
Anna Ballance, Senior Climate Change and Environment Advisor, British High Commission, Dhaka, appreciated the role of GCA in supporting the expansion of small-scale LLA solutions.
SA Abdullah Al Mamun, Urban Specialist, ADB appreciated GCA’s valuable contribution to the slum improvement component of CTCRP.
Mokhlesur Rahmen, CTCRP Project Director, LGED, reiterated the value added by the People’s Climate Resilience Plans in designing the slum improvement component.
In conclusion, Dr Liakath Ali, Director, BRAC, appreciated MOEFCC for their strong commitment and support in scaling up the LLA approach. He extended to the participants for their invaluable contributions.