Bishawjit Mallick investigates how coastal communities in Bangladesh perceive, react and adapt to a cyclone disaster, and what role migration and non-migration play in recovering devastated livelihoods
Climatologists predict an increase in the frequency and intensity of cyclone disasters in tropical regions, particularly in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, effects of weather and climate events on societies might depend not only on the type and strength of the hazards, but also on the livelihood conditions of those affected. Accordingly, this presentation considers the following research questions: (a) How do coastal communities in Bangladesh perceive, react and adapt to a cyclone disaster, and why do they act so? (b) Which role do migration and non-migration play in recovering devastated livelihoods, and which lessons can be learned here for future adaptation planning?
To answer these questions, I employ a mixed method (quantitative and qualitative) approach of empirical investigation. Based on a structured questionnaire, face-to-face interviews with 1555 households from 45 cyclone-affected communities have been conducted. Expert interviews and focus group discussions were also conducted to fill the information gaps that were not covered and/or collected in the household survey. Results show that (i) external interventions (relief and rehabilitation supports to the cyclone victims) are politicised and networked locally, which intensifies the process of social marginalisation, inhibits population displacements and destabilises the societal structure; (ii) the existing planning practices are a symbol of power exercises in the decision-making process of planning; (iii) the practices of seasonal labour migration and switching to another occupation are the best alternatives in order to stay behind instead of permanently migrating to a sub-standard slum environment in a city.