11th November 2019
Damaged by cyclone ‘Bulbul’
You may have seen on the news that Cyclone Bulbul hit the southern regions of Bangladesh this weekend. We have many production centres around Shatkira in the south and we understand that everyone we work with is ok and has evacuated to the cyclone shelters. As many as 2 million people have been evacuated for this storm. We know that our work will be particularly important for them in the coming weeks as they seek to rebuild their homes and their lives and we will be with them every step of the way.
Back in 1970 there was a cyclone that Bangladesh will never forget – cyclone Bhola. Estimates were that at least 500,000 people lost their lives. In the past decades the Government of Bangladesh has done a lot of work in building cyclone shelters all along the coast and they continue to build more in the wake of each cyclone that hits. As such the more recent cyclones have seen a much lower death toll as millions of people are evacuated to safety for these storms.
The people of Bangladesh are amongst the most resilient in the world. They understand flooding and they understand extreme weather and they manage. They continually, time after time, pull themselves up again and rebuild their homes and try to get their lives back on track.
But the effect of these cyclones is much more long term and is something that the people, alone, cannot conquer. Bangladesh is a delta region. It is very low lying and it is a mesh of thousands of rivers and water inlets all leading to the sea. When there is a very bad storm or cyclone, there is an accompanying tidal surge which pushes the sea water inland. The estimated tidal surge from the current cyclone Bulbul is 2 metres. This travels a long way inland. As the salty sea water goes into the ground, it salinates the soil. The soil becomes permanently salty. This will not go back to normal even after the sea water has receded back to the sea. The land affected is now permanently salty.
The effect of this is that the crops will no longer grow. And the vast majority of people from these areas live on the land. It also destroys the small shrimp farms once they are flooded with sea water. Most people think of a cyclone and think of the immediate problems of loss of homes and downed trees but for southern Bangladesh the change the cyclone brings is permanent and devastating.
As such many millions of people continue to migrate inland to the cities to try to look for a new livelihood. The Department of Agriculture continues to develop new crop varieties that will thrive in the salty water but the process is lengthy and the land continues to get more salty with each cyclone that hits.
The work that we take to these areas is a crucial, albeit very small, alternative. But for these areas to survive they need alternative employment to the land as the land becomes increasingly less productive from climate change.
It’s a long explanation today but I think it’s important to discuss the real and long term effect of these cyclones and climate change. Sadly for the people who live in this region, however hard they work, life will not be the same again.
At this time, we thank you more than ever for supporting our work x