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Sundarbans Climate Change Adaptation, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development –Baseline Survey.

Introduction and Background

The Sundarbans located in the south-west coastal region of Bangladesh is the largest mangrove forest in the world and is also a world heritage site declared by the UNESCO. The government of Bangladesh considers the Sundarbans area consisting of the Sundarbans reserve Forest (SRF) and the surrounding areas. In general, the area within 20 km from the boundary of the Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF) is referred to as the Sundarbans Impact Zone (SIZ). According to the project document, about 3.5 million people live in the surrounding areas of the Sundarbans and near about 1.2 million of these people are dependent on resources of SRF. The SRF is controlled by the Department of Forest. As poverty is widespread in the regions surrounding the forest, there has been an increasing pressure on the forest resources. It is therefore vital to give the forest resource users with alternative livelihoods for protection, sustainable use of forest resource and development of the SIZ.


Moreover, sea level rise and extreme weather events compound the development challenges of the Sundarbans. Rising sea levels associated with global climate change are expected to worsen conditions in the future. Bangladesh, specially its low-lying coastal regions including the Sundarbans area are recognized as extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change including sea level rise, tidal surges and cyclones.  


In order to address the challenges of sustainable development of the Sundarbans and its surrounding regions, the government of Bangladesh (GOB) requested World Bank support to design a comprehensive program of development for Sundarbans. The Bank in response has offered to provide a non-lending technical assistance (NLTA) program that will enable the GOB to prepare a strategic action plan to address three main objectives: (i) income growth and poverty reduction; (ii) biodiversity conservation and (iii) protection of life, property and assets and adaptation to climate change. The NLTA envisages to generate reliable data/information to facilitate informed decision making for the development of the Sundarbans and the surrounding area. Several studies and surveys have been undertaken including the Households Survey and community Survey in SIZ.


Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), has been officially assigned by the Bank to undertake Household Survey and Community survey in the SIZ. Accordingly, BCAS, has completed the tasks based on the method




The general objective of the study is to generate relevant data/information for a better understanding of: (i) the demographic and economic profile of households including education, health and sanitation, employment, agricultural and other livelihood activities, (ii) how households respond to salinity intrusion and frequent natural disasters like cyclones and storm surges including a specific focus on migration patterns and (iii) how these strategies could be strengthened to reduce the impact of cyclones and storm surges and future environmental changes. The specific goals of this study are:   


  1. to better understand the characteristics of households including demographics, health, education, employment, agriculture and other livelihood activities;
  2. to understand the socio-economic profile of the vulnerable sections, such as extreme poor households, as well as specific issues like sex-trafficking and migration in the Sundarbans;
  3. to better understand the nature of climate-induced storm surges/cyclones, water logging and salinity intrusion impacts on rural households in the Sundarbans;
  4. to better appreciate the social and economic factors contributing to adaptation decisions to rapid onset weather events such as cyclones and storm surges, or slow onset events such as water logging and salinity intrusion;
  5. to analyze how social norms and social preferences differ across homogeneous versus heterogeneous societies and how these differences shape adaptation decisions;
  6. to understand whether inherent attitudes towards risk and ambiguity which characterize physical exposure and impact can explain adaptation decisions;
  7. to assess the role of community level perceptions of exposure and impact as well as the various community driven initiatives towards better adaptation;
  8. to better understand policies and institutional responses and other forms of solidarity mechanisms or social capital that effectively assist households in adapting to flooding, water logging and salinity intrusion.


Study Methodology


The study methodology consists of the following steps and methods:

  • Review and collection of Secondary data/information
  • Generation of primary data through Community Survey and Household survey

      -     Development of the Sampling design for the Household Survey.

-     Development of the Survey Instrument (Questionnaire) for the Household Survey and checklist for the Community survey

      -     Training of the Field Enumerators

      -     Deployment of the Field Staff for the Survey

      -     Collection of Field data

  • Data entry, cleaning and processing
  • Preparation of the Survey Report


Scope of Work


The scope of work of this study as it has been detailed out in the Terms of Reference (ToR) consists of three major activities which are:

  • Community Survey
  • Household Survey
  • Experimental analysis of household adaptation behaviors.


Community Survey


The community survey will provide an overview as to the characteristics of the unions and mouzas selected for household surveys. The community survey will be designed to provide basic information on the following:

  • Demographic structure and trends (age, gender and caste breakdown of the community. birth/death rates, migration rates)
  • Economic base and output (structure and level)
  • Social conflicts over limited common property resources
  • Employment, occupation and income
  • Government programs and non-government programs present in the site
  • Formal or informal associations present (community-based or not)
  • Historical trends of cyclones, storm surges, water logging, and/or salinity intrusion
  • Presence of (community level) disaster risk management plans in place.


Household Survey


Household survey has been conducted in five districts viz: Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira, Pirojpur and Barguna in order to understand (i) household characteristics (such as demographics, health, education); assets; consumption; agriculture, livestock, aquaculture and forestry; solidarity mechanisms; and migration and emigration (ii) the nature of climate-induced cyclones, storm surges, water logging and salinity intrusion impacts on households; (iii) the relationship between household socio-economic variables and adaptation decisions; (iv) the relationship between household adaptation strategies and social networks, solidarity mechanisms, or public sector responses; and (v) social conflicts due to limited common property resources.


Experimental analysis of household adaptation behaviors


Individual and community response to adaptation to climate variability depends on individual preferences (when faced with risk and uncertainty) as well as the prevailing social norms and values governing cooperation and coordination. A proper analysis of the determinants of existing adaptation responses requires information on individual attitudes when faced with risks as well as norms and values (altruism, fairness, trust, reciprocity) that govern social interactions. Public action to facilitate better adaptation would be effective only if a proper assessment of the nature of social capital and individual risk attitudes is made. Since survey based questions are not the best instrument for obtaining this information due to endogeneity as well as reflection problem, field based experiments will be conducted to examine; 1) how social capital affect individual behavior in interpersonal interactions, and 2) how individual attitudes towards risk and ambiguity affect adaptation to climatic shocks.

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