I came to Bangladesh for the first time last year, curious to learn more about climate change impacts on the ground. Bangladesh was beyond anything that I had imagined: more colourful, louder, and unbelievably crowded. And also incredibly beautiful, full of lovely people, and visibly affected by climate change – all of which made for a fascinating mix and made me want to come back.
At the beginning of this year, I therefore returned to Dhaka joining the Loss and Damage team at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). Working at ICCCAD and especially on loss and damage has been a steep learning curve, not only starting work at a new organisation, but also immersing myself in a newly emerging issue that we are only now beginning to explore.
Interest in loss and damage is growing quickly and our work in Bangladesh is currently the only national project undertaking research into the topic. This means that over the last 15 months our project has developed unique expertise, which we are regularly asked to share. For example, together with my colleague Erin, I had the chance to travel to Kobe, Japan and participate in the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) 18th Inter-Governmental Meeting (IGM)/Scientific Planning Group (SPG) Meeting. This gave us the chance to introduce our work in Bangladesh to many interested parties from the Asia Pacific region and expand our network. As a result of the meeting, we are presently designing a regional loss and damage project.
Travelling (as well as working) within Bangladesh itself has been more challenging due to the politically unstable situation of the last few months. Recently, however, we were able to participate in a quick 24-hour field visit organised by researchers visiting from the United Nations University in Bonn. Even though we only travelled several hours out of Dhaka, travelling in Bangladesh often feels like entering unexplored territory, places that not many foreigners have seen yet. We visited a char island (fragile islands formed by the changing course of rivers), which is severely impacted by river erosion. Farmers are losing their agricultural land, homesteads, and finally livelihoods, meaning many of them have had to leave their homes and migrate to cities such as Chittagong, Khulna, and Dhaka.
Seeing first-hand the effects of loss and damage, I now look at Dhaka’s rickshaw pullers and sewers with different eyes. I wonder about their stories. What have they lost, what have they left behind? I am grateful that the loss and damage project gives us the opportunity to research these and other questions and hopefully contribute to finding solutions for addressing loss and damage.