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Char development and settlement project, Bangladesh

The Char project is designed to improve the economy and living conditions of the population in the coastal areas of southeastern Bangladesh – the 'char' lands. Doing so will reduce vulnerability to climatic conditions and increase the capacity of communities to adapt to climate change impacts.

This is being achieved through ensuring effective management of water resources, protection against tidal and storm surges, and improving drainage capacity. Climate resilient infrastructure is being built, such as cyclone shelters, roads, bridges, and drinking water pumps.

Working with local partners we've been managing the project since 2006 and in 2011 were appointed to lead the fourth phase, running until 2017. The five chars being tackled have a combined area of over 30,000 hectares. Around 28,000 households live there – 155,000 people.

Key facts

Our role as lead consultant covers:

  • Infrastructure development: protecting against salt water intrusion and flooding via embankments, sluice gates and drainage channels, and protecting people and property from periodic cyclones and the effects of climate change with climate resilient infrastructure.

  • Social forestry activities: such as the establishment of shelter belts to protect chars from storms and cyclones.

  • Land settlement and titling: by providing 20,000 households with a secure land title, investment in climate resilient agriculture and infrastructure is promoted.

  • Agricultural support: ensuring climate resilient agriculture.

  • Livelihood support through NGOs: awareness raising and piloting of disaster preparedness and climate change.

  • Formation of community based groups: these will closely be involved in planning and implementation of project interventions and in operation and maintenance after the project is completed, ensuring project sustainability.

  • Monitoring: ensuring quality control of civil works and other interventions.

Challenges

Due to an unfavourable socio-economic situation and the natural conditions in the coastal zone of Bangladesh – which is subject to flooding, cyclones and a lack of fresh water – the population’s capacity to deal with climate change impacts is very low.

The already existing vulnerabilities and hazards in the project area will be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, with a greater intensity of cyclones and higher storm surges, changing rainfall patterns, higher temperatures and sea level rise.

Solutions

As it is impossible to anticipate exact future impacts of climate change, particularly at local scale, climate change adaptation should have an intermediate goal of empowering communities to adapt to the impacts in a broader development perspective. By reducing the vulnerability and exposure to current conditions through engineering and community based interventions, we are improving the population’s capacity to cope with current and future climatic conditions.

Value and benefits

Experience from previous phases of this project shows that by providing climate resilient infrastructure with security of land tenure, higher incomes and other socio-economic improvements, people have invested in better housing, more resilient agriculture and effective local institutions capable of dealing with changing conditions. This has resulted in lower vulnerability to climate change impacts.

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