Bangladeshi coastal communities plant mangroves as a shield against cyclones

Over the past three decades, Moyna Rani Mondol, who lives right on the coast in Bangladesh’s southwestern district of Satkhira, has lost her home around 10 times to floods due to tidal surges.

Bangladesh is a large delta crisscrossed by more than 300 rivers. It’s one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters like floods, tropical storms and cyclones, inducing coastal erosion and soil salinization.

Most coastal villages here have the protection of several dikes and embankments built along the coasts to separate themselves from the sea as well as the tidal surges during high tides and cyclones.

The coastal people are no strangers to the tidal surges during high tides. But during the cyclone season, when the surges are much higher and more severe than usual, they flood the settlements by breaching the dikes and embankments set up to protect the communities. Now, each time a cyclone makes landfall, the villages get flooded.

“Nowadays, the number of destructive cyclones is increasing, and the weather is getting worse,” Mondol, 55, a widow who lives with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, told Mongabay. “The height of the tidal surges have also increased and, along with them, the damages.”

When Cyclone Aila hit the region in 2009 and Mondol lost her house, the tidal surge was more than 3 meters (10 feet) high.

When the Cyclone Yaas made landfall in Bangladesh on May 26, 2021, it affected some 1.3 million people, damaging around 26,000 houses and thousands of public facility structures in nine coastal districts, with a tidal surge of more than 2 m (6.5 ft), according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report titled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis,” Bangladesh will face different negative impacts, including intensified tropical cyclones, in the next two decades because of increased sea-surface temperature.