The villagers of Kalabogi are trapped in water. They are testimony to the fact Bangladesh is hit hardest by climate change.
Not too long ago Kalabogi, a coastal village in Bangladesh, was full of cultivable land until the rising sea levels began to swallow the area all the way up to the Bay of Bengal.
Frequent cyclones and floods hit the village since the late 1990s. In 2009, a major cyclone named Aila destroyed the country's 1,400 kilometres of embankments, 8,800 kilometres of roads, and about 3,50,000 acres of farmland. Several hundred people were reportedly killed in the disaster. The farmers of Kalabogi were the worst hit.
As most of the village land was submerged in water, the people of Kalabogi built new homes on bamboo poles 4 to 5 feet above the ground. Now with the farmland gone, the farmers scraped together work by harvesting honey and going to the Sundarbans to catch shrimp.
But the Bangladeshi government threw a wrench into the shrimp business by banning it altogether.
"Our main source of living was catching shrimp in the river. With the government's ban on it, we are jobless," said 46-year-old Jamal-ud-din.
His two sons couldn't bear the burden of unemployment and they migrated to the nearest city of Khulna, where one works at a brickfield and another has taken a job as a shopkeeper.
According to Akkas Sheikh, a resident of Kalabogi, the soil erosion started way back in 1988.
"Since then we kept losing our land to the river, and after losing everything, we built our bamboo houses," Sheikh said.
"We fear for our next generation".
Bangladesh ranks third in the world in terms of the number of people displaced by natural disasters and other conflicts. At least 4.4 million people have become homeless because of conflict and climate change, according to the 'Global Report on Internal Displacement 2021' compiled by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a non-profit in Switzerland.
As per the World Bank report, 10 to 13 million people will be forced out of Bangladesh by 2050 because of climate change.
Bangladesh is also the seventh most climate change-vulnerable country, according to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2021. The CRI 2021 – based on an analysis of data of 20 years from 2000 to 2019 – says that due to climate change Bangladesh lost 11,450 people, suffered economic losses worth $3.72 billion, and witnessed 185 extreme weather events during 2000-2019.
With the rising sea levels, saltwater enters the ground, affecting the drinking water and the soil.
During cyclone Aila, saline water entered Kalabogi's ponds and canals. As a result, the sources of drinking water in the area were reduced. Now people walk long distances to fetch drinking water. During the monsoon, they use rainwater for drinking purposes.
The poor water quality has caused numerous skin diseases in the region. Pregnant women have become prone to miscarriages.
Most of the families in Kalabogi have lost their homes to floods and cyclones, not once but at least five to seven times.
"I have seen my house getting washed away seven times," the 62-year-old resident of Kalabogi, Selim Sheikh, said.
Pointing toward an area which is now underwater, he said: "Our first house was about three kilometres away from here. It was built by my grandfather. We cultivated crops, had cows, hens and ducks. The whole family of 32 members lived together. Life was good. But now we have lost everything. There are just two people left, me and my wife, and we live in a bamboo house."