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Climate change, vulnerability and livelihood: possibilities and prospect of the Charlands of Bangladesh

This paper examines the vulnerability situation of people in the Charlands of Bangladesh. These are sandbars that emerge as islands within the river channel or as attached land to the riverbanks as a result of the dynamics of erosion and accretion in the rivers. The Charlands, or Chars, are home to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Bangladesh and are particularly prone to the effects of frequent climatic shocks such as floods, droughts and cyclones.

The main objectives of this paper are to:

  • analyse the social processes of environmental management in Char areas that are highly complex due to acute flooding, seasonal erosion and deposition leading to shifting lands and the resulting insecurity of resource entitlements
  • explore various resource management approaches which will protectenvironmental resources, establish access rights, counter vulnerability, sustain the integrity and functions of the agroecosystem and conserve biodiversity of the Charlands
  • demonstrate ways to build on people’s indigenous knowledge and social capital, and to show how resource conserving practices can lead to improved productivity and environmental stability.

The paper concludes that interventions to increase agricultural productivity without addressing the vulnerability context of peoples’ livelihood strategies will do little to affect poverty dynamics. Rather, the poverty impacts of development interventions are greater where there is convergence between
the intervention strategy and  household livelihood strategies.