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The politics and economics of resilience: peasant perceptions and responses to disaster in the Sundarban area, Bangladesh
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posted on 30.01.2017by Bhuyan, Mohammad Harunur Rashid
This study investigates the coping and adaptation processes of Bangladeshi peasants after the natural disaster of Cyclone Aila in 2009. The focus is on the experience of peasants and how they responded to the losses caused by the cyclone. Using 72 in-depth interviews with peasants, shrimp farmers, local leaders, labour contractors, engineers and NGO staff, this study analyses the aftermath of Cyclone Aila in two villages in the Satkhira district located in the Sundarban delta of Bangladesh. One of the villages, Gorkumarpur, was considerably more economically backward and poorer than the other, the village of Mollapara.
This thesis discovered that peasants saw corruption and the conflict between local interest groups as one of the major obstacles to reconstruction of the damaged embankments. It also found that the peasants were able to cope with this natural calamity by taking up a range of casual jobs. Such employment was essential after the initial relief initiatives ended. A second, longer-term adaptation strategy involved some peasant families migrating to other parts of Bangladesh and to India. Distress migration after 2009 was superficially reminiscent of the migration that occurred during the Bengal Famine of 1943. However, it was not the poorest of the poor who typically migrated after 2009 but those who had access to at least some resources. Migration was costly. Moreover, migration had serious consequences for the new host societies, especially the tribal people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.