With its low elevation and fierce tropical storms, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
Changing rainfall patterns, melting glaciers in the Himalayas, more floods and storms, and rising sea levels all threaten to have devastating impacts on Bangladesh, especially among the poorest communities in the country.
More than 31 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and depends directly on natural resources for their livelihood. The impacts of climate change are already being felt in some of the country’s poorest areas.
Abdul Mazid, who lives in the flood-prone Sunamgonj district of the country, says the region has witnessed a severe drop in fish stocks recently: “Our parents could catch fish in two or three hours, now we need at least three days to get the same amount of fish.”
To boost resilience to the damaging effects of climate change, the Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) – a joint programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – provides support to 28 government projects in Bangladesh.
The projects are helping to reverse environmental degradation while creating job opportunities for some of the poorest people in the country.
One of the key achievements of PEI in Bangladesh has been the introduction of new government procedures for projects that need public funds to get off the ground.
Thanks to the new requirements, ministries asking for money to fund projects must now state what percentage of poor people will benefit, what impact the project will have on natural resources and how resilient to climate change any new infrastructure will be.
“More projects are coming up that reflect an awareness of climate change impacts on development, as well as environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation,” said Ms Nurun Nahar, a planning expert in Bangladesh.
In the flood-prone district of Sunamgonj, the PEI project has helped boost the livelihoods of 100,000 households by increasing fish stocks and improving agricultural management.
Experts from PEI helped to improve the district’s water management system, introduce crops that are resistant to climate change and increase the number of floating gardens and fish cages.
Environmentally-friendly roads that are resistant to natural disasters while improving access to local markets, education and sanitation were also built.
“The forest swamp is a source of food for fish and we can earn a lot of money selling the leaves. Poor people of this area now can get fish,” says Abdul Mazid.
In May, countries will meet in Nairobi for UNEA 2 – the world’s de facto “Parliament for the Environment” – to speed up the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Finding ways to protect the vulnerable populations from the devastating effects of climate change is vital if the e world is to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.