This is a story of the flagship mangrove ecosystem conservation and climate change adaptation in the Sundarbans coastal region of Bangladesh. It is a story of humans living in harmony with nature, meeting their needs of drinking water, energy, and other livelihood needs through integrated native and organic farming, various nature-based enterprises, mangrove restoration, climate information service, environmental education, and ecotourism.
Bangladesh is a very small country with an area of 147,570 square kilometers with an exaggerated population (of 160 million). The Sundarbans coastal region of Bangladesh is a disaster-prone area and on the frontline facing the impacts of global climate change. The Sundarbans region is a UNESCO declared Natural World Heritage as well as a RAMSAR wetland site. It is also known as the largest single mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans mangrove flagship ecosystem is safeguarding and providing livelihood support for the 3.5 million climate-vulnerable coastal people of Bangladesh. Hence, if this ecosystem is disrupted by climate impacts, the people living in its surrounding would lose their source of drinking water, crops, livestock, farming land, and in general, their source of livelihood.
Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS) has been trying to promote ecological balance and create harmony between humans and nature by implementing the eco-village concept in the Sundarbans coastal region of Bangladesh. It aims to solve the major complex social and environmental problems such as poverty, drinking water, electricity, cooking fuel, riverbank erosion, education, natural resources management, woman empowerment, etc. there. Applying the Eco Village concept is the best way to solve complex social and environmental problems as it aims to create a life system where local people could live without harming the ecosystem. In Sundarbans, the Eco Village concept is divided into three components which included Green Housing, Green Education, and Green Business. Through our initiatives; people are getting safe drinking water from local and modern technology services such as re-excavating ponds, establishing solar-based pond sand and filter system as well as Reverse Osmosis (RO) with Water ATM. Distributing improved cooking stoves and solar lamps, solar home systems, generators, batteries, and established solar stations are contributing reduce the amount of fuel and carbon emissions.
Planting mangroves and social trees help to stabilize the environment in addition to providing safety to the villagers. Motivated students and villagers are using their increased knowledge of the environment and ecosystem in their day-to-day life. We can already see that by ensuring proper natural resource management, the supported honey collector families are earning 10 times more for their natural honey business. Coastal marginal families are improving their livelihood by doing agro farming activities – a farming system that integrates both plants and livestock together. Supported Sundarbans marginal families are generating income by making, processing, packaging, and selling the products using available raw materials from the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sectors. Community-based eco-tourism activities also contribute to promoting livelihoods of the forest-dependent communities, and the local culture as well as reducing the pressure on Sundarbans forest resources.
All of the implemented activities of BEDS are focused on solving regional social, economic, and environmental problems. Around 15,000 coastal families are now free from the scarcity of safe drinking water because of our drinking water service and this contributes to achieving SDG-06 (Water security). Our livelihood supporting activities (honey business, environmentally friendly agriculture, and fishing, eco-tourism, Agro Farming, production and sales of goods from agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors, sewing activities, mangrove nursery establishment, crab fattening, etc.) are contributing to sustainable livelihoods for local people and assisting to achieve SDG-10 (jobs and livelihoods). The kerosene purchasing cost of coastal communities has been reduced and students can read at night as 3,000 coastal families are now using renewable energy for their lighting purposes; which definitely contributes to achieving SDG-07 (Renewable energy). BEDS has always focused on engaging multi-stakeholders for the proper execution of project activities and ensuring the sustainability of the activities which contributes to achieving SDG-17 (partnership).
For transforming the coastal communities, we have created a brand by naming the BANOJIBI for marketing the Eco village products. BANOJIBI is a Bengali Word and the meaning of the BAJOJIBI is forest dwellers. So, the Banojibi owns by the Sundarbans resource harvesters and coastal marginal farmers.
Bangladesh Environment and Development Society
The Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS) is a community-based non-profit, non-government, and development organization committed to maintaining ecological balance and creating harmony between humans and nature. BEDS was established for solving complex environmental and social problems in Bangladesh such as the adverse impacts of global warming, unsustainable use of natural resources, drinking water crisis, Sundarbans mangrove ecosystem and biodiversity destruction, increasing uses of dirty energy, gender inequity, and human rights violation, etc. BEDS has completed more than 50 projects and received a number of prestigious awards including the Energy Globe National Award in 2018; the Divisional Environmental Award in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. In addition, one of the BEDS implemented projects “Eco Village in Bangladesh” has been selected to be showcased at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Best Practice Program. Find out more about BEDS on their website.