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Bangladesh: Mangrove forests provide protection from climate change

 

Dhaka – On the first day of her official visit to Bangladesh, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark traveled to the remote island of Char Kukri-Mukri on the southeast coast. This island, with a population of around 20,000, is on the frontline of Bangladesh’s work to adapt to climate change.

Sea levels on the coast of Bangladesh are expected to rise up to 23cm, directly affecting the lives of 38 million Bangladeshis living in coastal areas. Char Kukri-Mukri is already experiencing a marked increase in both the frequency and intensity of cyclones and accompanying tidal surges, disrupting agriculture and fishing, and also causing massive erosion. With about 70 percent of the population subsisting on crop agriculture and fishing, these changes are threatening a community already struggling below the poverty line.

To reduce the vulnerability of these communities to climate change and to help them adapt to its effects, UNDP began working with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Environment and Forest on an innovative project. Char Kukri-Mukri was one of four sites chosen for this project which is establishing 6,100 hectares of mangrove plantations and 935 hectares of timber species and fruit trees. Women in Char Kukri-Mukri have been trained to grow mangrove saplings, as well as trees used for timber, such as bamboo, and in forest management. Mangrove saplings will soon be planted along the coastline to create mangrove forests containing over 2.5 million trees over the four sites.

Mangrove forests act as extremely effective carbon sinks, able to absorb 97.57 tons of carbon per hectare, or more than three times the absorptive capacity of non-mangrove forests. More importantly for Bangladesh’s coastal communities, mangroves also provide physical protection, trapping sediment in their intricate root structure at such a high rate that they can potentially reverse the effects of sea level rise. Every year, millions of tons of sediment are washed through Bangladesh’s river delta near Char Kukri-Mukri, offering one of the few natural lifelines the country can harness to protect itself against the impacts of climate change and combat coastal erosion.

Speaking to the media at the end of the visit, Helen Clark stressed the need for poor communities to be able to adapt to climate change.

“Climate justice means that the people who are most affected by climate change have the ability to overcome the difficulties that this change has brought. It means being able to adapt and live with the change which is already with us, and it is practical things like the mangroves, like ways of earning a living, like being able to lift the level of the roads and the houses, and to be able to insulate yourself from the changes,” she said.

“At UNDP we advocate for poor countries to get access to climate justice. We want to see a climate deal, we want to see a substantial amount of resource flow to communities like this one so they can adapt and live within the change which is already inevitable. We know the people who are affected the most by climate change are those with no responsibility for bringing it about. So if you have no responsibility for causing the harm but you are harmed by it, there is an issue of justice.”

 

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