Category Archives: Environment

Of hippos and endangered indigenous denizens

Wasfia Nazreen

Published in BDnews24 on 21 June 2011.

This piece discusses displacements of humans and other species in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

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Between the horns of the disaster risk reduction dilemma

Fariha Sarawat

Published by the Daily Star on 14 October 2009.

MODHUMITA, a housewife and mother of two, hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since May not since her house and the small shrimp hatchery her family owned got washed away by Cyclone Aila and her two small children almost died.

The last time I was down in her village Shakbaria: a small community of about a 40-50 mainly Hindu families on the south-western coastal belt of Khulna her family of seven was still living in a makeshift house made of straw, fronds and plastic sheeting provided by Save the Children UK.

This was almost four months after the Cyclone had hit the house that got washed away. That was an NGO-prescribed “climate-resilient” variety of the kind that had been built to stand tall even against the onslaught of violent, tropical storms. It got washed away by the fierce tidal surge of unprecedented velocity. The early warning systems in place had only predicted the storm, not the ferocity of the tidal surge. The collateral damage was not caused by the storm, but by the mighty tidal surge that it had propelled. This shows once again that we need to scale up our disaster risk reduction efforts and hone our early warning systems.

I have worked with two different kinds of climate change survivors the ones who live at the forefront, on the coast, and deal with the frequent calamities, and the ones who have migrated to the cities because they figured survival, which is hard enough in this part of the world under normal circumstances, would just be easier if they didn’t have to fight a huge storm or flood every few months.

The latter group seems to be increasing in number. But not out of choice.

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Lessons From Aila

Fariha Sarawat

Published by the Forum on 5 October 2009.

This piece surveys the aftermath of an under-reported tragedy.

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A people in translation

Fariha Sarawat
Published by Himal on 1 October 2009.

I regularly visit the coastal regions of Bangladesh for work. Whenever I meet a family, the first personal question I am asked is, Apnar bari kothai? (Where is your home?) “Dhaka”, is my standard response. This is usually met by a curious look, because very few people are really from Dhaka, a city of migrants, many of whom have lived there for generations but who have never owned it. For most, it is a city to be at, not a place to be from.
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What they aren’t Telling us about Cyclone Aila

Fariha Sarawat

Published in the Star Weekend Magazine on 26 June 2009.


We can’t even find dry place to bury the dead, this is worse than Sidr: a resident of Nolia village remarked. Nolia village is located at the interior of the Khulna delta, in the Sutarkhali union of Dacope upazila, and is among the regions worst affected by Cyclone Aila. We have never seen so much water before, not even in ’88, stranded residents of Nolia village informed us. Making our way into the interiors of the south-western coastal delta of Khulna, much of which now lies inundated in salt water, with plants, fish and vegetation rotting in it, we came across many small villages like Nolia. The sight of dry land and fresh water was an anomaly in our journey.

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