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Rising Tides and Roaring Winds: Cyclones Unleash Havoc as Sea Levels Surge in Bangladesh

In the coastal regions of Bangladesh, changing climate has become part of local residents’ daily lives. Extreme weather and rising sea levels have seeped into every aspect of their routine, forcing them to adapt, 

Extreme Weather and Rising Sea Levels in Bangladesh 

To begin with, Bangladesh's geography makes it particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. It has an extremely low-lying topography, in addition to its plains being formed by the confluence of several major rivers - including the Ganges, Bhrahmaputra, and Meghna. This essentially means that a vast portion of Bangladeshi land lies near or below sea level. This makes a large portion of the land particularly susceptible to sea-level rise. 

Bangladesh is also located extremely close to the Bay of Bengal, and experiences a monsoonal climate. This means that it is exposed to tropical cyclones originating in the warm waters of the Bay, and a distinct wet and dry season. Rainfall patterns are crucial for sufficient agricultural yield, and excessive rainfall or drought can ruin crop yields completely. 

Rising sea levels in Bangladesh have contributed to coastal erosion, salinity intrusion, and increased vulnerability to storm surges. Working together, these three factors make the land that much more inhospitable for local communities residing there. Cyclones and extreme weather events have also become a more common and severe occurrence as the problem of climate change continues to accelerate. These events lead to severe flooding, which leads to damage of infrastructure, displacement of local and indigenous communities, and the disruption of agriculture processes. 

The Impact on Local Communities

The impacts of extreme weather changes and rising sea levels have been diverse, impacting nearly every aspect of locals’ livelihood. 

Cyclones, which are often accompanied by heavy monsoon rains and storm surges, bring massive flooding to coastal areas. This flooding leads to mass damages to critical infrastructure such as schools, roads, and bridges. This destruction of transport infrastructure hinds access to essential services and impending economic activities. 

Local fishing communities also face challenges as rising and changing sea conditions affect maritime patterns, thereby impacting marine life. Cyclones, and other extreme weather conditions, can destroy locals’ fishing infrastructure, such as their fishing boats. This is a major disruption on individuals whose primary livelihoods are dependent on the sea for sustenance and income. 

Bangladesh is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. When combined with extreme weather conditions and climate change, the number of internally displaced individuals, and individuals seeking asylum in other countries is on the rise. Internal migration leads to increased vulnerability and additional stress on already densely populated urban centres. In these processes, women and children are often disproportionately harmed since their mobility is limited. 

The Way Local Communities Have Been Dealing with Climate Change 

After devastating floods and cyclones, many individuals in local communities may be forced to evacuate, leaving them internally displaced or as refugees in other countries. 

However, locals are coming up with innovative preventative measures to decrease the impacts of harsh climates on their homes and livelihoods within their communities. 

One of the most effective one has been community-based early warning systems. These systems require and involve the active participation of community members, local authorities and non-governmental organisations. The active involvement of community members is the cornerstone for this programme to succeed. Community members are organised into committees responsible for different actions, including warnings, evacuation, and response efforts. Warnings are spread through multiple different communication channels, including megaphones, community meetings, local radio broadcasts, and sometimes mobile phone messages. Communities often develop and practice evacuation plans and train each other on early warning signs of cyclones. These warning systems also involve regular drills and simulations of an emergency to evaluate the readiness of the community to fill in any gaps in case of an emergency. 

These systems empower local residents to take proactive measures, and enhance resilience and reduce the impact of cyclones on vulnerable populations. The incorporation of AI and IT technology could elevate these response systems to a higher level of efficiency. In addition, developing faster methods of communication in emergency situations is crucial to ensure the success of these programmes. The recent incorporation of text messages has proven extremely successful, however this method is only effective for those who have registered phones. 

Throughout these challenges, the resilience of the Bangladeshi people as a community has been a remarkable feat. Upon facing multiple harsh cyclones over the last few decades, the country has built itself into a resilient, innovative community. 


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