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6 Review of literature on adaptation and coping strategies

6.1 Introduction

The present Chapter is based on a synoptic review of existing body of work on adaptive responses and coping strategies against the present and probabilistic climatic variability and changes in the context of Bangladesh. Specific focus has been put on the existing works relating to the drought prone areas and agricultural adaptive responses in this process.

6.2 A synoptic review of existing studies on climatic adaptation in Bangladesh

Several layers of literature on climate change and adaptation in the context of Bangladesh have been produced since the nineties. However, comparing the studies on various aspects of climate science the work on adaptation are quite limited in Bangladesh. Among these limited number of works on climate change adaptation, some of the major works on climate change and adaptation (in the context of Bangladesh) are highlighted below.

6.2.1 Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change for Bangladesh (Ahmed, AU et al: 1998, Kluwer)

In this early document the authors identified several dimensions of adaptation in Bangladesh context where focus on human and ecological systems and socio-economic development activities have been linked with the process of adaptation. The report identifies several modes of adaptation and review the Bangladesh context of climate change adaptation. Such modes of adaptations are identified as: a) bear losses, b) share losses, c) modify threat, d) prevent effects, e) change use, and f) change location.

The report focuses on the national level adaptation as well as local level measures of adaptations. Several schematic presentations of the possible adaptive measures have been presented in the paper and have been reviewed with a classification of the above modes of adaptation.

Focusing on the future adaptation options with respect to water and agriculture in sectors the final chapter of the publication identifies that the drought (moisture stress) related threats can be modified through various levels of adaptation options in terms of:

Modify threat:

Increased irrigation (at local and individual levels)

Holding water in barrages in winter (at global and national levels)

Augmentation surface flow (at global and regional levels)

Prevent losses:

Drought tolerant cropping practices (at local and individual levels).

Focusing on the future need for research and learning at both global and local level the paper also concludes the following:

“Institutional capacity building, human resources development, indigenous approaches linked by closed interaction with the global community is probably the best investment for learning about adaptation and developing the future course of action.”

6.2.2 Bangladesh: Climate Change & Sustainable Development (World Bank: 2000)

This World Bank report is a pioneering one and has specific sections on the adaptation. The document represents both: broad sectoral adaptations possibilities and the challenges of adaptation in Bangladesh.

The reports advocates for an anticipatory adaptation rather than a focus on the reactive one. It suggests,

“There are strong reasons to adopt an anticipatory long term strategy rather than a reactive (as seen in our present strategy in disaster management) approach in meeting the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh.”


“While Bangladesh has considerable experience in responding to disasters, and is in a continuous process to improve on its capacity to mitigate the impacts of cyclones, floods etc., the reality of climate change forces us to reorient our perspective towards long-term preparedness.”

In the broad sectoral adaptation the report focuses on:

The study shows that Bangladesh faces very grave socio-ecological and economic risks if it fails to adapt appropriate measures against climate change. Many of the changes are gradual and difficult to differentiate from the high background variability in climate conditions that Bangladesh faces normally. While this is especially true in upland areas of Bangladesh, the coastal zone offers a greater potential for monitoring changes and trends, and to promote effective adaptation.

The study identifies that adaptation to climate change should be seen as a requirement for sustainable development, and mainstreamed in our developmental endeavors. The report suggests,

“Climate change is not just an “environmental” concern but really a “development” concern for Bangladesh. This means that climate change as an issue must take center stage as a major developmental problem that the country will have to face in the coming days.”

The findings of the study are useful to enable a broad consensus of practitioners and planners in Bangladesh on priorities for further action. After achieving such consensus, one should move to the next stage of developing more project-specific or sector specific guidelines.

Finally, climate change threat for Bangladesh is integrally related to the country's sustainable development. The case of Bangladesh is unique in the sense that: unlike other vulnerable island countries, this country will eventually face the multidimensional manifestations of climate change (e.g. flood, cyclone, sea level rise, drainage congestion, salinity, drought etc.).

6.2.3 Reducing Vulnerabilities to Climate Change (RVCC: 2002–2005)

This project, funded by the CIDA and implemented by CARE Bangladesh, worked in six coastal districts of south-west of Bangladesh. The project works with 4,300 rural households to improve resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

The project worked in partnership with local organizations to raise awareness, implement practical measures at household and community levels and advocacy campaign. It has attempted, among others, to increase food and income security, identification of alternative livelihoods, reduce threats through cyclone preparedness and tidal river management.

The project reviewed a host of current policies existing in Bangladesh and looks for the implications of climate change and adaptation in these policies. An analytical review of twelve national policy documents and come up with some specific recommendation for a new policy on climate change in Bangladesh that would help incorporating the adaptation to achieve the national development goals.

RVCC project has identified a number of adaptation strategies and measure showing their relevance to specific policies under two broader categories named as:

  1. House hold level strategies

  2. Community level strategies

a) Household level strategies:

b) Community level strategies:

6.2.4 Final Report of National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA): Preparing for Future (MOEF: November 2005).

In a more recent months in 2005, the Bangladesh National Adaptation Programme of Action (BDNAPA) has been prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Policy makers of Government, local representatives of the Government (Union Parishad Chairman and Members), scientific community members of the various research institutes, researchers, academicians, teachers (ranging from primary to tertiary levels), lawyers, doctors, ethnic groups, media, NGO and CBO representatives and indigenous women contributed to the development of the NAPA for Bangladesh. The final document was endorsed and approved by the Cabinet and Prime Minster. The document talked in some detail about the climate change related vulnerabilities and the future adaptation needs for Bangladesh.

The BDNAPA final report talks about the climatic situation of Bangladesh and provides with prioritized adaptation measures identified in the process. It suggests that the adverse effects of climate stimuli including variability and extreme events in the overall development of Bangladesh are significant and highly related to changes in the water sector. Most damaging effects of climate change are floods, salinity intrusion, and droughts that are found to drastically affect crop productivity almost every year. Climate change induced challenges are: (a) scarcity of fresh water due to less rain and higher evapo-transpiration in the dry season, (b) drainage congestion due to higher water levels in the confluence with the rise of sea level, (c) river bank erosion, (d) frequent floods and prolonged and widespread drought, (e) wider salinity in the surface, ground and soil in the coastal zone.

Low economic strength, inadequate infrastructure, low level of social development, lack of institutional capacity, and a higher dependency on the natural resource base make the country more vulnerable to climate stimuli (including both variability as well as extreme events). It was found that the population living in the coastal area are more vulnerable than the population in other areas. The agricultural sector will face significant yield reduction. Thus foodgrain self sufficiency will be at risk in future. Impacts of climate variability (and quite possible also of climate change) on the biophysical system and consequences on different sectors are already evident in different parts of the country. It is also found that coastal zone, northwestern zone, central region and piedmont plain are most susceptible to existing climate variability and anticipated future climate change.

The report also elaborates about the future adaptive needs in Bangladesh. It suggests that the strategic goals and objectives of future coping mechanisms are to reduce adverse effects of climate change including variability and extreme events and promote sustainable development. Future coping strategies and mechanisms are suggested based on existing process and practices keeping main essence of adaptation science which is a process to adjust with adverse situation of climate change.

Sharing knowledge and experiences of existing coping strategies and practices to other area that would come under similar problems related to climate change. Development of techniques for transferring knowledge and experiences from one area/ecosystem is also necessary. Some initial activities have already been pioneered in Bangladesh in adaptation to climate change at the community level.

It report suggested that its important to monitor the actual impacts of climate change in different parts of the country to enable the predictions to be made more accurate and grounded in reality. It is evident from the science of climate change and impacts studies that severity of impacts and frequency will increase in future and therefore limitation of existing coping strategies need to be assessed. Moreover, preparation for this on regular basis will reduce impacts but will not solve the problem. Insurance as a mechanism may be considered for which further analysis is necessary.

The BDNAPA report suggested a number of adaptation measures for Bangladesh to address adverse effects of climate change including variability and extreme events based on existing coping mechanisms and practices. It also suggested some future strategies and coping mechanism in the document.

The BDNAPA has come up with the adaptive proposal yielded from various adaptive strategies from consultation with stakeholders of community and policy formulation level. The Bangladesh NAPA has identified the following 15 priority adaptation activities:

  1. Reduction of Climate Change Hazards through Coastal afforestation with community focus

  2. Providing drinking water to coastal communities to combat enhanced salinity due to sea level rise

  3. Capacity building for integrating Climate Change in planning, designing of infrastructure, conflict management and land-water zoning for water management institutions.

  4. Climate change and adaptation information dissemination to vulnerable community to raise awareness

  5. Construction of flood shelter, and information and assistance center to cope with enhanced recurrent floods in major floodplains

  6. Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change into policies and programmes in different sectors (focusing on disaster management, water, agriculture, health and industry).

  7. Inclusion of climate change issues in curriculum at secondary and tertiary educational institution.

  8. Enhancing resilience of urban infrastructure and industries to impacts of climate change including floods and cyclone

  9. Development of eco-specific adaptive knowledge (including indigenous knowledge) on adaptation to climate variability to enhance adaptive capacity for future climate change.

  10. Promotion of research on drought, flood and saline tolerant varieties of crops to facilitate adaptation in future

  11. Promoting adaptation to coastal crop agriculture to combat salinization through maize production under Wet Bed No-tillage Method and Sorjan systems of cropping in tidally flooded agro-ecosystem

  12. Adaptation to agriculture systems in areas prone to enhanced flash flooding-North East and Central Region through No-tillage potato cultivation under water hyacinth mulch in wet sown condition, and Vegetable Cultivation on Floating Bed

  13. Adaptation to fisheries in areas prone to enhanced flooding in North East and Central Region through adaptive and diversified fish culture practices.

  14. Promoting adaptation to coastal fisheries through culture of salt tolerant fish special in coastal areas of Bangladesh, and

  15. Exploring options for insurance and other emergency preparedness measures to cope with enhanced climatic disasters (e. g. flood, cyclone etc.)

6.2.5 Bangladesh National Dialogue on Water and Climate: Report in Local Level Consultative Meeting by IUCN (July 2004)

The recent report of the local level consultative meetings under the Bangladesh national dialogue on water and climate by the IUCN has pointed out several major local adaptation strategies for various climatic zones of Bangladesh. Some of these adaptation strategies identified for drought-prone areas are as follows:



Water Availability:


Poultry and Livestock:

Water Bodies:


Further recommendations:

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