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*As narrated to Irfan Aziz by Din M Shibly

A glimpse into Bangladesh’s disappearing natural reserves

One of the biggest challenges to climate action is not only understanding the risks of flooding, extreme heat and land subsidence, but how our community might respond to these risks. What are the community’s strengths? How might the existing system make the best use of current capacities and address weaknesses?

A string of villages lining our coastal areas are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as rising seas, storms surges, land subsidence (sinking), changes to rainfall and increasingly stronger cyclones. Kutubdia, one of Bangladesh’s oldest villages, is one cyclone hit away from being wiped off the map. Heavy cyclones have ravaged the village of Dhalghata, and unprecedented loss of embankments have caused the villagers to live as refugees in their own land. The Cox’s Bazaar – Teknaf Marine drive, which took 12 years to construct, is almost entirely by the sea and constantly at the risk of being swallowed by inundation. In order to fully protect this road from rising tides and sea level, and introduce newer technology to build stronger embankments, the government will need to spend twice as much as it cost to build it over the next 25 years.

While, multistoried houses can be one solution to villagers losing their homes – the hour has come for the government to prioritize our coastal areas and construct a plan ahead that will conserve our natural jewels for years to come.

Sharaitala, Dholghata, Cox’s Bazar.
September 04, 2018

Muhammad Yasin (9) was a kindergarten student when this school was being built in the middle of the village. The Sharaitala Govt. Primary school was abandoned in 2015. After the 1991 cyclone, most of the embankment surrounding the village was wiped away. As a result, the village got smaller as the year went by. By 2011 due to the embankment being broken down constantly, no much of the village remained and within the next five years, the villagers had become refugees.

Lands in Madartola village will be available for cultivation (Rice) in about a month. Water in the river Shalta is sweet now and the switch gates are opened on a weekly basis in order to bring water inside. Barriers (Polder) have been built around the villages in Dumuria sub district in Khulna district to protect these low land from salty sea water. As a result, these villages can grow crops twice a year.

Madartala, Shuvna, Dumuria, Khulna.
November 08, 2018

The Cox’s Bazaar-Teknaf Marine drive road is almost 100km. It took around 12 years and almost BDT 450 crores to construct it. Almost the entirety of the road is by the sea. In order to fully protect this road from rising tides and sea level, and introduce newer technology to build strong embankment, the government will need to spend twice as much as it cost to build it over the next 25 years.

Marine Drive, Cox’s Bazar.
September 02, 2018
Dhalchar, Char Fashion, Bhola.
November 16, 2017

The island that emerged on the Bay of Bengal with the deposit of silt for the last 100 of years, is already at the verge of extinction, triggered by the rise of the sea level due to global warming.
If the rising temperatures are constantly neglected, it is assumed that by 2050, the sea levels will rise by approximately 0.5 meters. This will cause 2251 square kilometers or 42% land of the Sundarbans to sink. It will also cause 25 lac(2.5million) people in major coastal districts to be inundated, as the water will wipe out about 2000 square kilometers of land.

Cox’s Bazar.
May 21, 2016

The coast of Bangladesh is regularly hit by cyclones moving from the Indian Ocean northwards up the Bay of Bengal. The coastline is shaped like a funnel, directing the storms towards landfall. In 1970 a cyclone hit the coast of Bangladesh, killing more than 3,00,000 people, and in 1991 over 1,38,000 lives were lost by a cyclone of similar strength. Cyclone Roanu which was a relatively weak tropical cyclone hit the coast of Bangladesh in May 2016 with and had caused the deaths of around 30 people.

West Char Dhurang, Kutubdia Island.
November 16, 2017


Diluara Begum (55) lives in the far northern end of the Kutubdia Island which is under threat of being completely destroyed. Her livelihood is one cyclone away from being wiped out but unfortunately, she has no place to go. In 2016 the cyclone Roanu ruined all the embankments and barriers protecting the island. Due to constant climate change and depressions in the sea take the form of frequent cyclones. Even though casualties have decreased, crops and lands cannot be saved in any way.

Dhaldata, Moheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar.
September 05, 2018

A cyclone shelter built after the 1991 cyclone by an NGO in Dhalghata, Cox’s Bazar which is nearly abandoned now. The shelter has been taken over by the Shraitala Govt. Primary School. They took refuge in it in 2014 after becoming forced migrants due to climate change. The shelter requires substantial renovation in order for it to be suitable to protect people.

Cyclone ‘Mora’ first hit the mainland of Bangladesh with a blow to this village. One-fourth of the land of ‘Majher Para’ of the island Shah Porir Dwip is now inundated beneath the sea. Majority of the people have been forced to abandon their home. Three other villages used to precede Majher Para but hey are all under the sea now.

Majher Para, Shah Parir Dwip, Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar.
September 02, 2018
West Char Dhurang, Kutubdia Island, Cox’s Bazar.
April 07, 2018

Kutubdiya is one of Bangladesh’s oldest islands. A good portion of this island has disappeared from Bangladesh’s map due to rising tides. Rising tides mean that the rest of the island is also under threat. Outdated technology available in the islands is not sufficient enough to stop erosion from the tides. Newer technology needs to be introduced for which hefty investments need to be made.

Jhulonto Para, Kalabogi, Dakop, Khulna.
November 09, 2019

Drums and ‘Motkas’ storing rain water from the rainy season don’t event take a month to finish in the villagers of ‘Jhulonto Para’. The water that surrounding the village is not drinkable due to the presence of high level of salts. There are no fresh sources of water around the village either. This is why women in the area have to travel long distances to collect fresh water.


‘Jhulonto Para’ is a village situated beside the Shibsha, a sea connected river to the Sundarbans in Khulna. Residents living there have to settle in little huts that have been elevated from the ground. The entire village has to endure incoming tides twice per day during rainy season. A huge amount of investment is required in order to bring these villages inside a dam (Polder) and prevent the people and their crops from being destroyed.

Jhulonto Para, Kalabogi, Dakop, Khulna.
November 09, 2018

Char Kalatoli, Monpura, Char Fashion, Bhola.
July 23, 2017

Char Kolatoli is newly established island in the River Meghna which is part of the island Monpura. It was a reserve forest 15 years back but due to pressure of increasing landless migratory people of Bhola district, it is now the biggest destination to establish new home. It is an island with at least three thousand families but it doesn’t have any embankment around it. This is not a photograph of flood effected area but everyday reality of the people of Char Kolatoli.

*Photographs By Din M Shibly


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