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.