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Dilruba Banu 1 GTZ Bangladesh
Background Paper for Conference on the “The Environments of the Poor”, 24-26 Nov 2010, New Delhi 2

SUMMARY Climate change challenges linked to unmanaged urban growth increase vulnerability of slum poor. It adds up new challenges against fighting poverty in urban areas. Climate adversity affects slum infrastructures including water systems, housing and settlements, transport networks, utilities, and income connectivity. The prevalence of diseases link to climate change increases slum poor’s vulnerability that constrain their economic activities. All of these conditions are worsened by several climate change risks such as high rainfall intensity, high tide, drought, cyclone, or other extreme events. Women and children are differently vulnerable than men under climate variability. The adversity of climate change still remains a low priority area. Challenges need inclusion of urban poor within decision making and action. Developing community based adaptation strategies to prevent the climate change risk and to take advantage of the opportunities from this unavoidable global climate change event is a current demand for Bangladesh. 1. URBAN POVERTY: LIVELIHOODS OF SLUM POOR Bangladesh experiences poverty conditions which originate from a number of socioeconomic and environmental factors. Urban poverty is evident in all the cities in Bangladesh. It is estimated that 43% of urban households live below the poverty line among which 23% are considered extreme poor. Around 35% of the population of six major cities in Bangladesh lives in slums and it covers only 4% of the land area with limited or no access to services. Slums are often located in urban sites, prone to natural disasters such as flooding which expose residents to health hazards that reduce their savings and productivity. The number of city dwellers in Bangladesh is increasing continuously. Urbanization contributes to increased economic growth by creating job opportunities, facilitating commercial activities and driving industrial development. Economic opportunity in urban area attracts large

                                                               Adviser on Community Mobilization and Gender, Governance Programme Development Team in Second Urban

Governance and Infrastructure Improvement (Sector) Project, Good Urban Governance Programme, GTZ Bangladesh, tel: + 880 2 882 3070, + 880 1199 098012, e-mail:, fax: + 880 2 882 3099, web:



For more information, see the conference website:


number of migrants from rural area and new migrants as well as second generation of migrants are living in slum area without housing and basic urban service. Rapid urbanization places great pressure on a city’s physical and social infrastructure. Overstretched city administrations find it increasingly difficult to provide adequate housing, transportation, waste and sanitation, education, health and other essential services to an evergrowing number of residents. The slum poor feel the consequences of inadequately managed urbanization in terms of their vulnerability to poor health, insecurity and other risks. The public services offered are often inaccessible to them. This situation drives the growth of more severe forms of urban poverty as vulnerable citizens, both new migrants and long-term residents. They find themselves unable to protect their families against the consequences of unemployment, illhealth, eviction, crime or other shocks that strip them of their assets destroy their livelihoods and keep them trapped in poverty. Despite considerable progress in reduction of the number of people living below poverty line between 1992 and 2005, Bangladesh is still one to the world’s poorest nations. In terms of urban poverty, the urban population living below the poverty line declined from 45% to 37% over the 1990s. Measuring urban poverty is a highly complex issue. The national measures needed for policy purposes often ignore the diversity of experiences and characteristics of the slum poor. Age, gender, educational background, livelihood, ethnicity, religion and a host of other factors vary within and between groups and individuals. Policy measures that seek to address the needs of the urban poor must be sensitive to this diversity. Slum poor rely heavily on cash income to secure their basic needs. Income-based poverty measures tend to underestimate urban poverty in comparison with those that look at consumption or take other dimensions of poverty into account such as access to basic services. Trends in other measures of poverty also indicate that the level and distribution of consumption among the poor has also been reduced. The improvements occurred at similar rates for both urban and rural areas (Narayan, et al., 2007). 2. IMPACTAS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON SLUM POOR AND THEIR LIVING Climate change compounds problems of environmental degradation and has led to serious deterioration of ecosystems, adding yet another dimension to poverty. Bangladesh is considered highly vulnerable climate change and climate variability. Various predictions of sea level rise puts 55% of its settlers on the threat of inundation. Rising sea levels will make southern coastal areas uninhabitable, especially islands. These southern populations will be forced to migrate to cities and will increase urbanization. It will affect infrastructures including water systems, housing and settlements, transport networks, utilities, and industry. Salination will limit traditional types of agriculture, and reduce drinking water. Sundarbans mangroves will be affected, reducing cyclonic tidal surge buffering. In Bangladesh, the most vulnerable cities include Dhaka and Khulna, both of which have witnessed extreme environmental stresses like floods in recent years. The key sectors affected by floods in Bangladesh’s cities include infrastructure, industry, trade, commerce and utility services. All of which reduce in productivity during and after major flooding is increasing the vulnerability of the urban poor. The adverse impacts of climate change on rural areas cause increased migration to urban areas in search of non-agricultural employment, putting greater pressure on scarce housing, water, sanitation, and energy services and increasing the number of vulnerable urban poor who are particularly at risk from climate related disasters. Within this poor living condition high rainfall intensity, water-logging, salinity, cyclone, drought and other extreme climate events exacerbate the slum poor’s lives. The most direct impacts of climate change on human health occur through extreme events like floods, cyclone 2   

those cause deaths. Climate change affects the distribution of climate sensitive diseases. Malaria is a frequently cited example, because its prevalence increases in line with the warmer, wetter climates that are anticipated with climate change. Other diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, dengue, and hypertension associated with heat stress. Asthma and skin diseases are also increasing, particularly during the summer. These ultimately constrained the economic activities of the poor even though it is difficult to prove the connection between climate change and these diseases. The conditions associated with climate change like temperature, rainfall, and salinity, and the impacts on water supply, sanitation and food production generates favorable environments for the incidence and spread of such diseases (Huq and Ayers, 2008). 3. ADDRESSING GENDER CONCERNS Poor women live in slum are particularly vulnerable to the adversity of climate change. In Bangladesh, women are more vulnerable to chronic poverty in general due to gender inequalities in various social, economic and political institutions. Climate change is likely to exacerbate this situation. Study shows that the death rate for women is almost five times higher than for men when cyclone and flood hit Bangladesh. This was because men were able to communicate with each other when they met in public spaces, but information often did not reach to the household, and because many women were not allowed to leave their homes in the absence of a male relative, many waited for their male relatives to return (Huq and Ayers, 2008). Urban flood coupled with drainage congestion is emerging as one of the major concerns these days. The slum dwellers are worst affected by urban drainage congestion. In prolonged water logging, women face severe skin diseases and gynecological problems because of repeated use of polluted water for sanitation. Slum dwelling women make their living mostly by finding self employment as temporary housemaids. Keeping children and belongings in inundated house make them unable to join in income earning outside the slum. Delay or absence in the job often is translated into loss of employment, with counterproductive results on food security. Many slum dwelling women are self-employed as food producers and vendors and mostly target rickshaw pullers and day-laborers as their customers. They face enormous hardship during these days due to lack of purchasing capacity of the urban poor. Children suffer from acute malnutrition though mothers try to feed the kids with whatever they have, being themselves half-fed or even starving (Neelormi, 2010). In addition, women are the main users and carriers of water for the household. As the availability and quality of water declines and resources become scarcer, women suffer increasing workloads to collect non-saline water to sustain their families. Women have only the legal right to use and enjoy the land through marriage. Women lose land on divorce which denies their security. As the availability of fertile land declines under climate change, women lose access first. Women have indigenous knowledge, skills and capacities which are used in disaster mitigation and adaptation. Proper acknowledgement of the contribution of women, protection and financial support should be available to sustain and develop this knowledge. Technologies need to be properly adapted where desirable to women’s needs (Neelormi, 2010; Chowdhury, 2008). Chowdhury, 2008 suggests that non-governmental, international and regional organizations should assist governments in developing gender-sensitive strategies to address climate change by:


• •

Involve poor and women in planning of comprehensive urban development strategies, that include gender sensitive adaptation for climate change; Network and promote community access to gender-sensitive information and communication technologies supporting information exchange on environmental management and climate change.

4. URAN ACTIVITIES: CONTRIBUTE TO ENHANCE CLIMATE CHANGE RISKS Job opportunities are mostly concentrated in urban areas and thus people have to travel within a long distance. Indeed, this creates environmental consequences due to traffics, transportation, wasting fuel and air pollutions that ultimately contribute to global warming and climate change (Habitat, 2008; IPCC, 2007). Climate change impacts correlate to people’s demand on energy and because of global warming, the demand for winter heating is much less than an increase for summer cooling which is associated with electricity demand. Climate change impacts may also increase the energy use for water supply like pumping, desalination, recycling, and water distributions (Hunt & Watkiss, 2007, cited in Febi, D.). The major challenges of the slum poor are food insecurity, poor energy supplies, poor infrastructure and transport and poor sanitation services. Due to insufficient services they pollute the local environment by illegal dumping of wastes and discharging of wastewater (moral, 2008 cited in GTZ Bangladesh, 2010). With the increase of unplanned and socially and environmentally degraded industries Bangladesh poses a new challenge. The industrial areas in Bangladesh are situated in the midst of densely populated regions. There are many hazardous and potentially dangerous polluting industries situated in the cities. In Dhaka at Tejgaon area, food processing industries are situated along with chemical and heavy metal processing industries. In Tongi a pharmaceutical industry is situated near a pesticide producing industry. Considering the severity of environmental threats to the slum dwellers and urban poor, industrial waste management and waste water treatment need particular attention. The major challenges will be getting security of tenure for the slum poor. This will ensure access to services and infrastructure development. Climate induced hazards tend to increase in scale in absence of infrastructure. The possibility for the government to acquire capacity to meet this high demand of infrastructure is questioned. In the present situation the urban poor continue to live in the most vulnerable lands. In most cases these are illegally occupied, structures are built informally with affordable materials following no standards or building regulations outside official regularities. Several NGOs and donor funded projects have worked to develop infrastructure and services. These include constructing sanitary latrines, hand tube-wells, paved pathways, drains and streetlights. Although the achievements are limited, but learning from such works can emphasize community initiatives to adapt cost effective locally based infrastructure development in the absence of formal provisions in the face of increasing demands from climate change. 5. UGIIP 2: COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO SLUM LIVELIHOODS The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has undertaken Second Urban Governance and Infrastructure Improvement (Sector) Project (UGIIP 2) with financial assistance of ADB (loan) and KfW (grant) and technical cooperation from GTZ. The project is implemented over a period of six years up to 2014. GTZ provides technical support for the capacity development in the scope of UGIIP 2. The primary objectives of the project is to promote sustainable human development, economic growth and poverty reduction by improving urban governance, 4   

developing urban infrastructure and services, enhancing municipal management and strengthening capacity to deliver municipal services (specially to the poor) in 35 targeted Secondary Towns or Municipalities (Pourashavas) of Bangladesh. Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) acts as the executing agency of the project while the participating Pourashavas implement project components. To achieve the objective, the project assists the selected Pourashava to: • • • • Enhance capacity of Pourashava to implement, operate, manage and maintain basic urban services; Improve urban governance by implementing a set of programmes; Increase accountability of Pourashavas towards their citizens, especially poor and women; and Provide improved physical infrastructure and urban services.

While UGIIP2 supports the improvement of urban governance and infrastructure, it adopts a performance-based allocation of investment funds as an incentive mechanism for governance reform. Performance criteria are defined in six key areas of urban governance including “integration of the urban poor”. Investment funds are utilized to improve municipal transport, drainage, solid waste management, water supply, sanitation, municipal facilities, and basic services in slums. The project design is based on the lessons from the ongoing Urban Governance and Infrastructure Improvement (Sector) Project (UGIIP 1). All 35 Pourashavas already formulated their Pourashava Development Plan (PDP) in a participatory manner, including a visioning exercise, a situation assessment, priority investments and activities for governance improvement. Each PDP includes a Poverty Reduction Action Plan (PRAP) to identify and formulate the specific actions for poverty reduction in Pourashava. A Slum Improvement Committee (SIC) has been established in each target slum to execute the PRAP. There are some committees formed under the project in Pourashava like Town Level Coordination Committee and Ward Level Coordination Committees which have representation of low income group as well as women to ensure their participation in decision-making processes of Pourashava management. To ensure adequate budget to implement the PRAP, a minimum of 5% of total investment funds allocated to each Pourashava has been earmarked for basic services in urban slums and trained SIC is responsible for operation and maintenance of the infrastructure identified in PRAP. Outside of slums, Community Based Organizations have been formed to manage community infrastructure focusing on low income groups. Representatives of the poor include the chairperson of SIC, selected among themselves. The selection procedure has been specified in guidelines for PDP development. Under the project Pourashava intends to invest in its basic services to urban slums aiming the improvement of the living conditions of slum dwellers. The components include improvements in roads, drains, foot paths, water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and lighting in slum areas. Specific components are identified in PRAP. The investment projects are supposed to accomplish the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) for sustainable environment management in the Pourashava. Within the area of governance and infrastructure improvement, UGIIP 2 has commenced community adaptation through participatory planning by Pourashava citizens including the slum poor against climate change challenges. Community-based adaptation to climate change is a community-led process, based on communities’ priorities, needs, knowledge, and capacities, which should empower people to plan for and cope with the impacts of climate change (Reid, et al., 2009). Adaptation in built environment emphasizes exploring innovative measures affordable for the urban poor. Bangladesh has experience on community based disaster management. There are enormous possibilities to explore how the built environment of the 5   

urban areas can be designed and improved to include the urban poor in city level development process. These can include how to invest in resilient infrastructure -- improving drainage, adequate disaster-safe housing, increasing access to services such as health, water and sanitation, increased security of tenure for the informal settlements, etc. (Khan, 2008). Climate change adaptation response depends on country specific capacity on economic, social and human development which is closely related to income levels, inequity, urban poor development capacity, illiteracy rate, and area disparity. The adaptive capacity is also influenced by the finance capability of the government (ADB, 2009). In this context of fast growing cities in Bangladesh, development in many other sectors (for instance transportation, housing, and regional development) has been drawn the attention of the policy makers, development practitioners and donor agencies. Under UGIIP 2 Pourashavas, the urban poor have stipulated infrastructure development in their PRAP that have strategic implications in response to the climate change challenges. Install deep tube-well for pure drinking water and sanitary latrines in slum areas have been given most priority by the poor among Pourashava services. Connect slums to pipeline water service of Pourashavas is another priority area for the poor. The poor demands narrow drains inside the slum to avoid water logging that can be covered with slabs to use as footpath for safe walking. They have insisted involvement in alternative income generation that may reduce natural resources dependency. They have initiated community based management on collecting solid kitchen waste from door to door and dumping in Pourashava located areas. 6. CONCLUSION Poverty and climate change challenges are closely correlated and urban poor are disproportionately affected by a badly managed urban environment. Because of climate change and variability, the slum poor face environmental risks in water systems, housing and settlements, transport networks, utilities and industry that require proper environmental management. Climate change initiatives offer clear opportunities to transform gender relations which limit the ability of both women and men to look forward to, survive, cope with, and recover from climate adversity. In this broad context, a holistic and gender-sensitive approach to sustainable development of slum poverty and climate change adaptation need to be addressed. It is now essential to develop urban adaptation strategies to prevent the climate change risk and to take advantage of the opportunities from this foreseeable global climate change event. In addition, sustainable adaptation is an investment to mitigate potential disasters in the future (Laukkonen, et al., 2009). In response to these challenges, action research is needed on testing tools for community adaptation, knowledge generation and capacity development. Projects should share lessons learned from project activities with key stakeholders at local, national, regional and international levels and to elicit their support for climate change adaptation in urban areas. Successful adaptation on climate challenges should be scaled up and lessons learned should be incorporated into the planning process. Climate change adaptation policies should consider risks at different scales – local, national, regional and global. Climate change adaptation discourses should be expanded by listening to the priorities of slum poor. At the local level, actions need inclusion of effective urban planning that insists on urban poor in decision making process and actions. Efforts should be taken to work on improving effective participation in planning processes for the urban poor in challenging climate, in general, and active engagement in the maintenance of community facilities, in particular. Creation of an inventory of the challenges adaptation for slum poor should be considered.


Urbanization needs to be championed by all stakeholders to improve reaction and actions to climate change. Economic growth threatened by the impacts of severe poverty which is worsened by climatic vulnerability. Particular attention is needed for the development of coping strategies to address poverty that relates to the impact of climate change and that special emphasis should be placed on the problems faced by the poor urban population. It is needed to protect the poor against climate change impacts to ensure social and economic stability of the country. The broad range of impacts that could be produced by climate change on slum poverty is overwhelming. It is important to make the understanding clear of these impacts where climate change is becoming obvious. Foremost impacts are apparent, but the critical part is yet to come. Finally, in line with increasing international attention to climate change, donors are increasing their focus on climate change in Bangladesh. They now provide direct support for programmes that reduce vulnerability to climate variability and climate change. Bangladesh has developed some capacity for dealing with the impacts of climate change at the national level. Policy response options have been activated to deal with vulnerability reduction to environmental variability in general, and more recently, to climate change in particular. Furthermore, Bangladesh Government has undertaken an initiative to establish a separate Department of Climate under the Ministry of Environment and Forests to deal with the climate issues and respond to climate related challenges in future.


LITERATURE Ahsan S. M. M., Jachnow, A. and Walsham, M., 2010, Ensuring Socially Inclusive Urban Development - An International Perspective on Planning in Bangladesh, Paper presented in World Town Planning Day 2010, GTZ Bangladesh, Dhaka Chowdhury, N. A., 2008, Men, Women and the Environment - Gender Issues in Climate Change, Climate Study Series, Unnayan Onneshan, Dhaka Febi, D. Climate Change Urban Adaptation Strategy, Briefing paper, Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) GTZ Bangladesh, 2010, Bridging the Urban Divide in Bangladesh, Expert Report for the Joint Conversation of the Local Government Division, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives and the Local Consultative Group Urban Sector, GTZ Bangladesh, Dhaka Huq, S. and Ayers, J., 2008, Climate Change Impacts and Responses in Bangladesh, Note for Policy Department Economic and Scientific, European Parliament Khan, H., 2008, Challenges for Sustainable Development: Rapid Urbanization, Poverty and Capabilities in Bangladesh, unpublished Narayan, A., Yoshida, N. and Zaman, H.,2007, Trends and Patterns of Poverty in Bangladesh in Recent Years (draft), A background paper for Bangladesh Poverty Assessment, South Asia Region, World Bank Neelormi, S., 2010, Addressing Gender Concerns in Adaptation Discourse: Leadership Awaits Bangladesh, A keynote paper presented in a National Dialogue, organized by Gender CC and Center for Global Change, Dhaka Reid, H., et al., 2009, Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change: An Overview, In Participatory Learning and Action 60, International Institute for Environment and Development, UK