Changing Tides: Stuart Matthews

SHIKARIBARI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH€“ July 2011. Locally employed workers unload building supplies that have been brought by boat from Barisal district. International NGOs have provided 90,000 household grants to rebuild the homes that were destroyed in 2009. © Stuart Matthews

BAGALI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. Famer ploughing his land in preparation for sewing his crops. People have started to reclaim the water logged land by using embankments and shallow engines to drain the water. © Stuart Matthews

GILABARI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. Azizul Sana (32) has now migrated with his family back to their home after it was destroyed by Cyclone Aila in 2009. He currently has no fixed work but recently received a grant from the British Red Cross to purchase a shallow engine to clear the waterlogged land. Azizul now farms poultry on the land that he has reclaimed. © Stuart Matthews

SHIKARIBARI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. Rina Sarker (42) each day she wades though the water to check the nets, ''€œI only catch small fish which is just enough to feed my family.''€ She also works as a day labourer as her husband Subash cannot work due to ill health. © Stuart Matthews

SHIKARIBARI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. Shikaribari residents make their way to the mosque for the Dhuhr prayer. The girl sits on the wall waiting for her father, she cannot enter as the mosque is only for male worshipers, the women tend to pray in their homes. © Stuart Matthews

SHIKARIBARI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. One of the new homesteads inside the Shikaribari ring dam, the area remains heavily flooded with stagnant brackish water. This provides a feeding ground for water born diseases. © Stuart Matthews

SHIKARIBARI, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. Men standing on the embankment looking out towards the coming storm, each year thousands of people are displaced by the Monsoon rains and tidal surges. © Stuart Matthews

FULTALA, KOYRA, BANGLADESH July 2011. Villagers travel back from Koyra bazaar, heavy rainfall during the Monsoon season can cause whole villages to become isolated. © Stuart Matthews

Changing Tides: The Barsha

In the remote south-western corner of Bangladesh the coming monsoon storm poses a severe threat to the people living in the region. Each year during the Monsoon season (Barsha) rising flood waters and coastal flooding causes many to migrate, taking refuge in makeshift shelters on embankments throughout this low lying country.

The climate displaced refugees of the Shikaribari and Pobna regions that were uprooted by Cyclone Aila have started to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. This has been possible due to the completion of the Ring Dams in 2009 and 2010 along the banks of the Ganges Delta. However, high salinity levels caused by the flooding has damaged most of the surrounding agricultural land forcing people to continuously rely day to day on International Aid distribution.

People are taking the initiative to drain areas of land using shallow engines to pump out the brackish water and freeing up the tidal water by cutting gates in the embankments to restore the natural flow of the river. High levels of salinity in the water table has forced farmers to shift away from traditional agricultural methods, as the crops are unable to grow in the new chemical makeup of the land. A modified salt-resistant rice has been developed by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute which is proving successful.

This situation which exists in Bangladesh is a clear statement that climate change isn’t an issue for the future, it a problem now. The resourcefulness and sheer determination of the Bangladeshi people enables them, with assistance, to adapt to the continuous threats of climate change. Nevertheless the world needs to take notice of the effects, which are already being felt directly by this small nation.

Stuart Matthews (b.1984, England) graduated from Plymouth University in 2007 after being selected a finalist of the Ilford Student Photographer of the Year. During his final year he travelled to China to document this new and evolving super power of the 21st century, Stuart covered Kosovo’s independence in 2008 and later that year interned at NOOR Images. Since then, he has made various trips to document the impact of Climate Change in Bangladesh and the effect that this is having on communities living on the frontline. He was funded as part of the IdeasTap/Magnum Photos Photographic Award 2010 to continue his work there. To contact Stuart, and to view more of his work, visit his website here.

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