AILA Impact on the Livelihood of the Coastal People of Bangladesh

JIRCAS International Symposium Proceedings
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Super cyclone “Aila” hit the south-western coastal areas (Khulna and Satkhira district, laying across
over a little higher elevation compared to the sea level, of Bangladesh on 25 May 2009, just after a similar
occurrence “Sidre”, occurred in two years back. Since the time immemorial, the coastal zone of the country
has to experience such a big event in every few years. The catastrophe due to these super cyclones is huge
and irreparable as well. Still the coastal communities in the area have to find their means for existence.
The objective of this study is to give a brief account how these people accommodate with the situation like
Aila together with an interventions carried out to date, gaps and challenges as they move towards recovery.
In total 3.9 million people became the victim of the cyclone. Out of these victims, 190 were instantly
dead or missing and 7,100 were injured. Some 100,000 livestock were killed, and nearly 350,000 acres of
crop land were damaged. The main livelihood source in affected areas mostly turned into fishing after
Aila, with more than 60% of people directly, or indirectly, involved in the sector: around 38,885 hectares
of shrimp field (ghers) and sweet fish ponds were damaged by the cyclone. The cyclone hit as the sector
was preparing to harvest the season’s first output, meaning that all ‘ready to export’ (grade) shrimp was
washed away. It also caused considerable losses of the infrastructure like embankments of 1960s, polders,
sluice gates, roads, houses, bazars, schools, administrative units etc. It was widely acknowledged that the
network of embankments were already got vulnerable due to successive cyclone and storm damage during
the preceding years. The structural damage also caused by the shrimp industry and a general lack of timely
and adequate maintenance.
In addition to the concentrated and large-scale damage, Aila created disparities across affected
communities in peoples’ ability to work from relief dependency towards self-sustained recovery. In effect,
there are two developing post-disaster scenarios: one is the families unable to commence the process of
self-recovery as they remain on the embankments, without secure access to drinking water, sanitation,
livelihoods or sufficient food. The second scenario sees the families who have returned to recently
inundated villages. While there is a degree of self-recovery, external support for the re-establishment of
local services such as schools and health centers, as well the reconstruction of local-level infrastructure
such as water and sanitation, community roads and spaces, is needed.
Government of Bangladesh did not seek any international assistance after Aila. The Government
provided the bulk of relief assistance including food, cash, drinking water, emergency medicine and other
non-food materials to Aila affected communities. Food and cash distributed under the Government’s VGF
(Vulnerable Group Feeding), VGD (Vernerable Group Development) and GR (Gratuitous Relief)
programs account for almost 90% of all relief assistance. In the agriculture sector, the Department of
Agriculture Extension (DAE) provided T. Aman rice seed, Boro rice seed, maize, mughbean seed and
fertilizer to affected farmers in two upazilas (Sub-districts) of Satkhira district. Although there was an
absence of a formal appeal, the international community provided assistance to a number of international
and national organizations and Government agencies working in the most affected areas.
As Aila washed away all crop seed stocked for next season in their home, 5-10% respondents in both
affected districts reported that they were given rice seed and vegetables seed to restart rice productions so
that they could be self-independent to feed themselves. Therefore the farmers made good effort to grow
rice crop, but due to land salinization, they were experiencing severe problem of crop failure as stated by
the respondents (70% in Khulna and 15% in Satkhira). About 1% respondent opined that they replaced
cows, goat and poultry for their family income support in both Satkhira and Khulna. It was also found that
some people were given up as created their income sources such as fishing boat and net and nursery and
homestead plant. It was notable that 85% affected people in Khulna migrated seasonally to nearby town
and unaffected areas for their job whereas 40% affected people similarly migrated for their income. In contrary, 2-3% severely affected people who lost their all migrated permanently to town or nearly
unaffected areas. 55% respondents in Khulna and 40% in Satkhira reported that most of the affected
people sold day labour for their income. In addition, many people earned their income by doing non-farm
activities such as honey collection, leaves (Golpata) collection from the Sundarbans, forest labour, shell/
crab collection, boat carpeting, net making and motor cycle/rickshaw pulling. Nearly 80% affected people
in Khulna depended for financial crises on money lenders whereas 40% people on money lenders. The
respondents of FGD reported that after Aila, the NGOs did not show interest to give loan to the affected
people for any activities and very few got loan from NGOs. It was also important to note that nearly 90%
affected people curtailed meal and even remained starvation one or two time a day. Moreover, more than
50% women went to town or nearby villages to work in other houses for food. 70% people in both districts
reported that they have to buy food on credit by selling advance day labour on cheap. After Aila the
affected people, finding no other way, sold advance labour very cheap for nourishment of family members.
The Sundarbans is one of the largest sources of livelihood in Khulna and Satkhira districts. The
Government imposed restrictions on entering the forest after cyclone Sidr (2007) to allow for its natural
recovery. Local people are allowed to enter the forest during a three month period (March to May) after
obtaining permission from the Department of Forestry. Forest livelihood includes collection of Golpata
(forest leaves), honey, fodder, timber, fish and crab. As people lost boats and tools during Aila, they are
now reporting difficulty entering and working in the forest during this year’s working season (March to
May). Moreover, as many failed to pay back previous loans, due to losses following Cyclone Aila, microcredit
providers have not provided further loans to support their livelihood re-establishment this year. This
fall in agricultural and fishing activities significantly affected the local labour markets and has led to
decreased employment opportunities and income for agriculture and fishing wage labourers. The labour
wage-rate for paddy cultivation has been reduced from around 150 taka per day per person, before Aila,
to 100-120 taka immediately after Aila. Moreover, casual labourers found only seven to ten days work per
month, compared to 20-25 days in a normal year. Currently there is very limited scope for communities
(either living on the embankments or for those who have returned to their previously inundated land) to
re-engage in their previous livelihood given the dominance of the largely destroyed shrimp industry.

Date of issued
Creator M. S. Islam M. A. Salam J. K. Biswas M. S. Kabir
Publisher Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Available Online
Issue 2012
spage 128
epage 142
Rights Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Language eng