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.  

A female resident of Kalabogi village stares at  the horizon. A couple of decades ago, there used to be a village full of houses and lush green farmland, which is now under water.
A female resident of Kalabogi village stares at the horizon. A couple of decades ago, there used to be a village full of houses and lush green farmland, which is now under water. (TRTWorld)

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.

Cyclone Aila that hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh in 2009 changed the lives of the people in Kalabogi village. This is what is left of the village now.
Cyclone Aila that hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh in 2009 changed the lives of the people in Kalabogi village. This is what is left of the village now. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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. 

Women in Kalabogi struggle to manage menstrual hygiene because frequent floods damage the village's sanitation facilities.
Women in Kalabogi struggle to manage menstrual hygiene because frequent floods damage the village's sanitation facilities. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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.

Coast guard sometimes seize the fishing nets while patrolling the Sundarbans' waterbodies and the villagers of Kalabogi lose their only means of earning.
Coast guard sometimes seize the fishing nets while patrolling the Sundarbans' waterbodies and the villagers of Kalabogi lose their only means of earning. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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".

Fresh drinking water has become a rare commodity in Kalabodi, so villagers collect rainwater during the monsoon and travel long distances to fetch ground water in the winters.
Fresh drinking water has become a rare commodity in Kalabodi, so villagers collect rainwater during the monsoon and travel long distances to fetch ground water in the winters. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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.

In Kalabogi,  primary school dropout rate is high at 61 percent.
In Kalabogi, primary school dropout rate is high at 61 percent. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

As per the World Bank report, 10 to 13 million people will be forced out of Bangladesh by 2050 because of climate change. 

After their homes and lands submerged in water, the people of Kalabogi built bamboo shacks on four to six feet long logs to save themselves from high tides but due to the rising sea levels, they may soon have to go a few more feet up.
After their homes and lands submerged in water, the people of Kalabogi built bamboo shacks on four to six feet long logs to save themselves from high tides but due to the rising sea levels, they may soon have to go a few more feet up. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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.

The loss and degradation of land in Kalabogi is leaving many people without means of supporting themselves economically, and unemployment is rising.
The loss and degradation of land in Kalabogi is leaving many people without means of supporting themselves economically, and unemployment is rising. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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.

Kalabogi is also known as a
Kalabogi is also known as a "hanging village" because its houses have been swept away by floods and people were compelled to live in bamboo shacks and travel by boats. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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.

People are getting desperate as they fear rising sea levels will drown their bamboo-made homes while they are trapped in a cycle of debt and poverty.
People are getting desperate as they fear rising sea levels will drown their bamboo-made homes while they are trapped in a cycle of debt and poverty. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / TRTWorld)

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."

Source: TRT World