On shrimp, salt and security

A woman in the Gabura region of Bangladesh catches shrimp. Photo by Oxfam GB/InternationalThis month, International Alert published an article in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability on the effect of environmental risks on people’s livelihoods in Bangladesh and India, and responses to these risks.

Bangladesh and India are among the most populous countries in the world, but are also two of the most vulnerable to environmental risks. In addition to storms, sea-level rise, floods and droughts, local communities face a multitude of other economic and socio-political risks. Understanding these risks and how communities respond to them is critical in securing community livelihoods.

Our study focuses on two areas: Satkhira in southern Bangladesh and Odisha in eastern India. The communities we studied in Satkhira depend mainly on the shrimp and fish resources of the Sundarbans mangrove forest, while those in Odisha, on Lake Chilika, depend on fishing and salt farming.

These communities face multiple and interacting livelihood risks. While storms and floods are common environmental risks in both countries, related livelihood risks are case-specific. In Satkhira, attacks by criminals are the major threat to human wellbeing, while in Odisha it is violent conflict between lake users. Unsustainable resource extraction is found in both study countries. In Satkhira, shrimp farming weakens the flood protection, while in Odisha, illegal prawn farming marginalises poorer lake users.

Our research concludes that any adaptation to environmental changes therefore needs to be sensitive to the interaction between governance, local institutions and socio-economic developments.

The article is written by Janani Vivekananda, Shreya Mitra and Nisha Pandey of International Alert and Janpeter Schilling of International Alert and the Institute of Geography at the University of Hamburg in Germany. Environment, Development and Sustainability is an international journal covering all aspects of the environmental impacts of socio-economic development.

You can find out more about the article here and find out more about our work on environment and climate change here.

Photo: A woman in the Gabura region of Bangladesh catches shrimp. Photo by Oxfam GB/International