August 27, 2009—As monsoons and cyclones worsen due to climate change in the South Asian country, many coastal peoples are migrating to drier cities.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
Just two months after cyclone Aila ripped through Bangladesh's Satkhira (shaht-kee-rah) district, killing hundreds and driving hundreds of thousands of families in search of dry land, there is no respite for coastal communities.
The South Asian monsoon has arrived, bringing with it heavy rains that are flooding large swathes of the coastline and forcing families to spend the few savings they have preparing for another season of floods, or migrating to the cities.
In some Southern Bangladesh villages, families who have rebuilt their houses since cyclone Aila are now raising the levels of their houses hoping they will stay above the floodwaters.
SOUNDBITE (Bangla) Rafiqul Islam Sana, resident, Dihglarait:
"We lost our house and belongings to cyclone Aila, and though it has been a few months since, the water keeps rising. We don't have any other shelter so we rebuilt the house after raising the floor with an earthfill. It is much higher than it used to be but I am scared it will not be enough because the monsoon rains won't stop."
Sana and his family have raised the level of their house, and have used bricks to raise the level of their bed, but are still scared that when the waters rise after a few days of heavy rains, their house will be washed away as it was nearly three months ago, when cyclone Aila hit.
Tahmina Begum is a resident of Patakhali. Where her house used to be, there is now a new tributary of the river.
SOUNDBITE ( Bangla) Tahmina Khatun, resident, Patakhali:
I will never be able to reclaim that land, so I had to squat on the street without water, without proper toilets, without a house. Everyday it rains from above and the tidal waters rise from below. I have decided to leave for the city."
Mozaharul Alam is a climate change expert with the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.
SOUNDBITE (Bangla) Mozaharul Alam, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies:
"When a major cyclone hits, not only are lives lost but a lot of people also lose their livelihoods. These people are then forced to migrate to the nearest city and if they don't find work, they migrate to the big cities. This phenomenon is steadily increasing. This is happening in Bangladesh's cyclone prone areas, flood prone areas, and now newly created drought prone areas where the monsoons have failed."
According to the IPCC, or the intergovernmental panel on climate change, Bangladesh is on the front line of global climate change.
Tens of millions of people face rising sea levels, falling crop yields, frequent devastating cyclones and a rising intensity of its annual floods.
According to leading experts on climate change, between 10 and 25 million people are migrating to big cities in Bangladesh every year as a result of extreme weather events linked to global climate change.
Even a 3.6-degree Fahrenheit temperature rise could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 to 30 percent of the world's species, according to a 2007 report by the IPCC.