Climate change | Blogs

  • A flood warning system to reduce economic loss in disasters

    Halim Miah

    May 18th, 2016

    Md. A. Halim Miah [1]and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan[2]

    Weather Forecasting Display Board: Atuilia weatherboard.

    This Weather Forecasting Display Board (WFDB) is both attractive and useful to the local community, especially to those who are vulnerable to flooding and other climatic disruptions.

    The results of the first pilot study show that rural people working in agriculture and shrimp farming found it very helpful.  Coastal areas like Atulia of Shyamnagar, Satkhira district and Zhilonga Union in Cox’s Bazar District are highly susceptible to cyclone and water surges, so found it very useful for their daily livelihoods.  It was scaled up at Sirajganj Sadar Upazila, a disaster prone area where flood and river bank erosion occur frequently.

    Shyamnagar Upazila, is a climatic hotspot and the majority of the people are manage their livelihood by shrimp farming. This Weather Board was first demonstrated at the Atulia Union Council of Shyamnagar Upazila in 2011.

    How does it work?

    1. Construction: A wooden frame with CI sheet and covered by transparent either glass or white plastic where clear, concise daily weather messages are interpreted with well-known symbols
    2. Function: If somebody doesn’t understand the messages on the board, they ask the Gyaner Haat people (Entrepreneur of Knowledge node at community level, Union Digital Centre) for an interpretation.  This helps them to understand about the implications of the messages of the board and what action they should take.
    3. Content:  Weather and climatic information are displayed like daily temperature, rainfall, humidity and sunlight hour along in attractive and relevant ways.
    4. Scientific Information is carried at local level:  Information is collected from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) on current weather issues on a regular basis and interpreted on the Weather Forecasting Board for three weeks. It also provides agricultural information for farmers proactively like suitable crops variety during that time for planting, whether farmers should go for raising a seed bed, or releasing fries in the gher etc. in the current week.
    5. Link with extension agents:  The board includes necessary mobile phone numbers/contact persons of relevant government departments, so that farmers and fishers can make phone calls to Gyaner Haat and concerned  government professionals for necessary information and advice.

    Digital display of weather forecasting  and flood early warning

    Digital weather boardPractical Action trialled this  manual display board for access to weather and early warning information for reducing loss and better farming preparedness. This was a very low cost solution but effective. Now a day’s supply of electricity and internet connectivity has been expanded through a government Access to Information program (a2i) that is called Union Digital Centre.

    Practical Action in partnership with a2i project has installed a knowledge service branded as Gyaner Haat. In each Gyaner Haat there is an entrepreneur who has a computer, printer and internet connection. We get national weather and flood forecasting information from government authorized sources (Bangladesh Meteorological Department and Flood Forecasting Centre)  and these are translated into local dialects along with descriptive information for the farmers.  Information such as what they will do if the vapor level is high, what would be the effect of higher humidity enables farmers to make better preparation. The digital board allows easy and rapid information delivery at community level and thus contributes to saving poor people’s assets and resources.

    We are implementing this in the Sirajganj and Bogra districts, two of the most flood prone areas , which are recurrently attacked from flood during the monsoon season from July to September. This has been empowering knowledge poor people to benefit from forecasting and disaster preparedness. It is one of the knowledge intervention activities of the Zurich Flood Resilience Project in Bangladesh.


    [1] Coordinator Knowledge Service ( Operations), Practical Action, Bangladesh

    [2] Senior Knowledge Officer ( M&E), Practical Action, Bangladesh

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  • Weather information board enhancing community resilience

    Upendra Shrestha

    May 9th, 2016

    This is a story of a youth Assistant Badghar Ashish Kumar Chaudhary (Badghar is an elected leader in Tharu community) from Tighara, Rajapur. He explains how the Zurich Foundation funded Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) weather board is helping his family and the villagers to take farming decisions.

    Assistant Badghar Ashish explaining about the usefulness of the weather information board

    Assistant Badghar Ashish explaining about the usefulness of the weather information board

    Ashish says:

    “Weather information board is very helpful, I check the board every day and particularly before planning for any agriculture farming and harvesting activity. Earlier my family used to harvest the paddy looking at the sky and making prediction about the weather. I still remember we lost paddy after the harvest many times due to rainfall since our prediction was wrong. But now I check the weather board and convey the message to the community so that they plan the farming and harvesting activity in an appropriate time when weather pattern is suitable. Due to the weather information we have been able to save our harvest which earlier used to be destroyed due to bad weather conditions. This has made the community more resilient to the floods and other hazards as good harvest means they can save the grain for difficult period.”

    Community members observing the weather information

    Community members observing the weather information

    For more information visit following links:

    Bidhya’s story

    Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP)

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  • The future of Puri is hazy: Climate concerns qualms the citizens

    Ananta Prasad

    May 2nd, 2016

    Being world famous for its spiritual importance and religious tourism Puri is not an unknown city for all. However, the issues in the city are being ignored continuously. The city witnesses a flow of more than 50 lakh people in a year. This number is huge and so as the issues that are close to the factors that affect the climate of this small historic city in eastern India.

    This is further to the global action towards changing climate pattern and philanthropic efforts, Vasudha Foundation initiated a workshop among the city based thinkers, environmentalists, practitioners in partnership with Practical Action Foundation. The workshop “Sustainable and Climate Resilient Puri-Resources and Actions” witness a good number of diverse audiences working in Puri from different domains.

    Concerns related to water, sanitation, health and hygiene was major as shared by the participants. Issues related to proper drainage system, treatment of waste water, rain water harvesting was the suggestion which most of the experts focused on. A major concern was also raised regarding the ground water depletion of the city and its preparedness for tackling such crysis in future have emerged as a challenge now.

    IMG_3161Similarly making the city with proper green cover was raised by many thinkers during workshop. Valuable suggestions like road side and beach side plantation, enough mangrove plantation were suggested to tackle the scorching heat at this east coastal city. It is noted, the city used to be alternate capital once upon a time during summer because of its weather which is just history now.

    In order to reduce the carbon emission and pollution, few concrete suggestion came which was doable and available government officials also appreciated the same. Promoting cycling, restrictions on diesel and petrol run rickshaws and to introduce electronic auto rickshaws was among few suggestions. To have a check on the unwanted death of sea fishes and tortoise, some thinkers also suggested on battery or solar run fishing boats inside the sea which was highly appreciated by many.

    But while discussing all these, the governance and civic engagement was something which seem hurdle for every possible development and actions. Hence, the workshop concluded with key action points so as to have a proper enforcement of existing laws and have a proper coordination of all line departments.
    This workshop was jointly organised by GermanWatch, Vasudha Foundation and Practical Action with support from Commonwealth Development Knowledge Network with an objective assess the finance needs for Climate Compatible Development (CCD) in second-tier cities like Puri and analyse the extent to which existing sources can meet those needs and what innovative local, national and international sources, including direct access modalities for cities under the Green Climate Fund.

    The workshop was attended by people from the hotel industry, fishermen community, different key government departments and civil society members of Puri City.

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  • Sheep rearing to reduce the impact of climate change

    Anwar Hossain

    April 5th, 2016

    Lessons from the southern coastal area of Bangladesh

    The people of the southern coastal part of Bangladesh are experiencing the severe impacts of climate change on their lives and livelihood. In 2009 the devastating cyclone Aila killed many people and devastated the livelihoods of million in the coastal community of Bangladesh. The severe cyclone and saline water intrusion made their life more vulnerable. It directly affected the natural ecosystems, natural resources and has had a negative impact on the poverty situation and livelihoods, agriculture and food security.

    sheep rearing bangladesh cyclone

    In 2011 there was no grass following Cyclone Aila in 2009. Livestock were struggling to survive without grass and fresh water.

    In 2011-2013 Practical Action Bangladesh piloted a community based adaptation project in the Satkhira district and demonstrated a number of adaptive technologies.  I recently visited the project area and captured the people’s adaptation and the changes in their lives.

    History says once the coastal districts Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat was rich in livestock like buffaloes, cow and goats.  Two recent extreme weather events, cyclones Aila and Sidr, hit this habitat and destroyed it. The intrusion of saline water changed the soil properties for agricultural activities. Due to increased salinity, absence of agricultural practices, lack of grazing land and acute fodder problems, livestock resources were reduced seriously in the coastal area.

    Cultivating saline tolerant native grass

    In 2011-2013 Practical Action Bangladesh demonstrated saline tolerant native grass cultivation and improved management technologies for sheep rearing. Sheep rearing is an important and potentially adaptive livestock option in the context of increased salinity. Sheep are stress tolerant and fond of a local grass named ‘Samna’ grass (scientific name is Parapholis strigosa Sea Hard-Grass in English) is highly saline tolerant (>18ds/m) and adaptive.

    House for sheepRearing sheep is increasing gradually in the coastal area as a household based adaptation and alternative income option. It requires a small house (5 x8 feet)for 5/6 sheep. Sheep eat almost everything. Samna; a local grass is the major feed for sheep and grows well in saline soil.  The grass can be cultivated on land adjacent to the homestead.

    In April the grass has to be transplanted with no tillage. Some urea fertilizer and irrigation may be required for rapid growth. Besides this grass, sheep eat a wide range of feeds like kura (waste from rice husking), and other grasses – whatever is available in the locality or the leaves of trees.

    coastal sheep rearing Bangladesh Vaccination and deworming should follow to avoid diseases and unexpected death. A sheep of 5/6 months could be sold for Tk.1500-2000 (£15-£18). Sheep-dung is used as saar (compost) for vegetable production and as fuel. One can get fuel of Tk.450/monthly from 5/6 sheep for cooking.

    This community has adapted sheep rearing to become an important and potential adaptive livelihood option in the increased salinity context. Sheep rearing can contribute to employment creation and eradication of poverty of the poor and marginal, specially, as household based income generation option, where, employment scope is a major problem.

    Improved breeding and market linkages could also help these farmers to earn more to increase their resilience.

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  • Voice messages warn communities at risk of flooding

    Halim Miah

    March 29th, 2016

    In 2010 Germanwatch estimated that Bangladesh sustained losses of US$ 1.8 billion in damages between 1993 and 2012 from a variety of natural disasters at a cost equivalent to 1.8% of GDP. The 1998 flooding that affected over two-thirds of the country resulted in estimated damages and losses of over US$2.0 billion, about 4.8% of GDP. Research revealed that improve early warning and weather forecasting (EWF) can reduce loss and damage to lives and property at community level due to recurrent multiple disasters.  A qualitative assessment shows that receiving voice messages via mobile phone saved crops with worth $50,000 for some flood vulnerable communities of Sirajganj, an upstream region in Bangladesh that recurrently faces flood. Voice messages were sent to 250 mobile phone users. This amplified to additional 10-15 households and motivated people living in areas at risk during the last year’s monsoon to prepare against an upcoming flood.flood

    In 2015 dependency on nature and uncertainty of poor farmers like Anisur has changed because they received flood forecasts at community level. As a result they had the opportunity to plan for the flood and protect their lives and resources.

    Practical Answers initiated this bulk voice messages system as an experiment during the monsoon in the Sirajganj district amongst people at risk.  This service system was designed for the Zurich Flood Resilience project in Sirajgnaj district.  The voice message from Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB, Flood Forecasting Centre) said that there was the possibility of raised water height and forecast a risk of flooding for the next five days for communities living by rivers such as Jamuna.

    The original message created by BWDB was shared among a limited number of people. Practical Answers Zurich Flood project team collected the message and disseminated it to 250 stakeholders in  vulnerable communities.  It took an average of 36 hours to process and channell this message through a bulk voice message system to our responsive stakeholders.

    Farmer, Anisur Rahman, lives in Paikpara village by the side of the river Jamuna in Sirajgonj district. He told us how he benefited from this flood forecasting system. He heard the flood forecasting information from a volunteer of the project named Asanur Begum.

    “I have a small pond where I cultivate fish but that pond does not have sufficient boundaries that could protect my fish from flooding.  When there was lower rainfall I could save the fish as the pond did not submerge. Asanur apa, a project volunteer, organized a group meeting and shared the voice message about the rising water of the Jamuna river. Listening to her advice and after hearing the voice SMS I caught most of the fish from my pond and sold them for TK 6000 (£6).  Otherwise all my fish would be gone, as in past years and I could not get this amount of money. Short messages saved my fishes and helped me to earn money by selling the fish. So this message should be continued and we should all be responsive to the messages”.

    Other contributors: Mokhlesur Rahman, Guru Das Biswas and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan

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  • Gender Inclusive Resilience

    Colin McQuistan

    March 8th, 2016

    Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) involves reducing disaster risks through efforts to analyse and reduce their underlying causes. On International Women’s day it is vital to the success of these efforts that the agency of women is not ignored nor overlooked.

    Men and women planning risk reduction activities at community scale in Nepal

    Men and women planning risk reduction activities at community scale in Nepal

    Disasters affect men and women, the young and the old, differently. Due to entrenched socio-economic conditions, cultural beliefs and traditional practices, women are more likely to be disproportionately affected by disasters. Hence, the empowerment of women is a critical ingredient in building disaster resilience, risk reduction efforts planned by men will never be complete.

    According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), while progress on gender equity has been made, serious gaps and challenges remain in delivering on the international community’s commitments to women’s rights in disaster risk reduction efforts. In too many contexts gender inequalities constrain the influence and control of women and girls over decisions governing their lives, their access to the resources they need and in the contingency planning for when things go wrong.

    This need to change, the engagement and leadership of women as change agents in their societies is still overlooked.  All too often women are categorized as one of the vulnerable groups and are not identified as an active participant with skills and knowledge to contribute to deliver more holistic risk reduction.

    In Practical Action in efforts to overcome these barriers and to build on the agency of women we have developed a set of minimum standards for disaster risk reduction projects.

    DRR and gender

    Sustainable and sustained DRR requires an accountability framework to measure progress and move towards implementation in our projects.  If we are able to demonstrate the benefits of gender inclusive risk reduction and capture the lessons learned then we can influence gender thinking at local to national scales. This necessitates for greater availability and usage of gender-disaggregated data, research and programming not only from our projects but form the other actors.  Only by working together will the gender gap be overturned leading to more gender-responsive and inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and response management.

    If you have any thoughts on our ambition to capture disaggregated data or suggestions on how to build women’s agency in DRR we would welcome your feedback

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  • Being Young

    Ananta Prasad

    February 17th, 2016

    At least, a smile means something;
    The satisfaction of being the reason of it,
    The happiness to see someone happy,
    The accomplishment of honest efforts,
    The realization of contributing for a cause
    All these matters, all this you count
    When you are young, Young at heart!

    It’s neither the space you work,
    Rather the environment of positivity,
    Which propels you
    Towards goodness and inspires.
    The spirit of an action hero
    To being the saviour
    Not in a dream but by action.
    This is what you fantasise
    This is what makes you Young
    Young at heart.

    The philosophy of a Visionary
    Visions of Change and prosperity
    Traveled through countries
    Enabling lives better and happier
    Translating the words into action
    Action being real; being Practical.
    Creating comrades of development
    Young Minds and young thoughts,
    Because, we are Young at 50.

    Lights, life and Livelihood
    Water, toilet and self-respect
    Disaster, fights and self-sustain
    Agriculture and caring the climate
    Its power to you, energising lives
    In-hand with Tech-Justice
    Hopes multiplied and lives dignified.
    Aging is just a myth.
    We are 50, Young at heart.

    IMG_6262 (Cópia)

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  • Technology Justice is critical to reduce risk for the poorest

    Colin McQuistan

    February 7th, 2016

    Technology can greatly enhance the ability of disaster-affected communities to reduce their risk thus preventing natural hazards turning into human disasters.

    Technology has driven our development. Key technological innovations have heralded revolutions in the way we interact with the environment, but this drive for development has now started to threaten our future. Many scientists are proposing that we have now entered a new epoch “The Anthropocene”. This started when human activities began to have a significant impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Climate change is a symptom of the anthropocene, as unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels threatens the future viability of this planet as a home for us and future generations.


    The consequences of this global imbalance is felt most by those who are least responsible for causing the problem in the first place. Climate change threatens to deprive poor people of their livelihoods, damage infrastructure, lower productivity and ignite social tensions. The response to climate change will consume resources that could otherwise be directed towards productive activities, and can wipe out years of development in seconds. Humanitarian assistance often arrives too late, when loss and damage has already occurred. Practical Action believes that the goal of development should be to create sustainable wellbeing for all, wellbeing that is resilient and not easily eroded by external shocks and stresses. We must not rely on humanitarian response alone. Communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate should be prioritised for action and under the Paris agreement technology will be central to how the global community responds to climate change. But the way in which technology is accessed, innovated and used is critical to the effectiveness of this response, especially for communities who face extreme or recurrent natural hazards.

    Technologies exist that have the potential to reduce the exposure of poor and vulnerable populations around the world, but technologies are either not rolled out or are not functioning to provide communities with usable information about their risk. Technologies can manifest in different ways to alter community risk. Technology is central to monitoring risk exposure and technology is central to support people to respond to risk. But poor communities continue to be hit by regular disasters with no advance warning. What are the underlying conditions that create this disconnect between technology and vulnerability?

    technology tramsformation

    It is clear that access to technology and its benefits are not equally shared. The current innovation system is not working. Without change, it will continue to drive injustice, inequality and lead to avoidable damage and destruction. It is time to overhaul how technology and its innovation are governed, in order to ensure the wellbeing of all people and the planet.

    Technology Justice Call to Action

    Be part of a movement for Technology Justice. Check out our call and be part of the change!



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  • Global commitment to reduce carbon and fund adaptation

    Sam Owilly

    December 15th, 2015

    The historic moment finally came on Saturday 13 December 2015, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

    Agreement signedWhile every party was not able to get all their demands, overall the agreement is a good balance between the different positions of the negotiating groups and a commendable outcome of the process. The consensus suits the diverse legal structures of the parties thus improving the odds for speedy ratification.

    There is much to be done to make the document perfect but even more so to implement the various provisions of the legal instrument and the decisions. One of the most exciting aspects to me is the recognition of adaptation as a global priority and the commission of all countries to communicate their adaptation actions thus making adaptation a global priority.

    The further commitment towards putting global warming below 1.5°C to accompany the current hard limit of 2°C is another really big plus especially for the African group which stood firmly on this warming ambition target, benchmarking domestic climate commitments set out in the submitted  Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). This presents a balanced priority on mitigation and adaptation, further augmented by the decision for all countries to communicate their adaptation actions while also reporting on their mitigation activities and support, both given and received.

    Gaps on Loss and Damage and climate finance

    flooding in BangladeshThe agreement however leaves a lot of gaps on Loss and Damage.  It excludes liability or compensation for losses and damages even though it directs countries to create a special process to address those that stem from unavoidable climate impacts which overwhelm the limits of adaptation, following the procedures laid out in the Warsaw International Mechanism.

    A similar dilemma is in the climate finance element where despite the pledge of an annual minimum $100 billion from developed countries by 2020, it is not yet clear which finance mechanism will be used. However the shared vision is that this may be through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and/or Least Developed Countries Fund which essentially are the financial decision making bodies of the COP. The Adaptation Fund may eventually be part of the GCF but that’s for us to wait and see. It also not yet clear what the determinants of the $100b floor target are as it is not backed by any scientific or technical ground. So whether it will be enough or too little is hard to say at this stage.

    Ambitious and broad INDCs, especially for the African countries that submitted individual targets, will need to inform national development agendas to be consistent with the agreement. Donors and supporting countries have further pledged to support a climate proof development agenda, reinforcing the need have a climate lens in planning for development in all the sectors where Practical Action works.  This can already be seen with the DFID SUED programme for example.

    The GCF  and the Adaptation Fund have also pledged to work on improving their efficiency and opportunities for direct access. Coupled to this is a great commitment towards green energy in Africa as well as opportunities that create wealth, generate jobs and multiply the capital injected.

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  • A New Hope?

    Colin McQuistan

    December 13th, 2015

    It was almost 10pm in Paris, as a tired looking Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, said “I see no objections”, barely glancing at the rows of country delegates packing the room, then sharply banged his gavel bring the Paris Agreement to life. After more than 20 years of negotiations by 196 countries, a global climate deal had finally been sealed. On Saturday 12th December 2015, rich and poor countries alike agreed to differ, but in the process adopted 31 pages of dense, legal text which, just possibly, could set the world on a different, cleaner, safer, development path.


    In recognition of climate change as a symptom of unsustainable development, the world met in Paris over the last two weeks to negotiate the text for a new global climate agreement to combat the threat of climate change and indirectly put development on a more sustainable pathway. At several moments during the last few days such an agreement appeared impossible, but finally after an extension of one day the Paris Agreement was struck.

    Agreement signedThe French delegation along with UN Sec Gen Ban Ki-Moon and Christiana Figueres celebrate the moment

    So what is in the agreement?  The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to at most 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit them to 1.5°C, recognising that this would significantly reduce risks and the impact of climate change. The agreement also established a system to review each country’s emissions every five years, and conduct regular global “stocktakes” of the targets. To facilitate the process the developed countries have committed to provide $100 billion a year of finance by 2020 to support developing countries. So with a target, a longer term ambition and a mechanism to monitor and “ratchet up” ambition every five years, the basics have been put in place to reverse decades of fossil fuel dependency.

    During the closing speeches the role of civil society in the successful outcome of the deal was recognised by many of the parties attending. Civil society organisations, such as Practical Action who participated in many of the annual meetings and sub-committees, were recognised for their contribution to the debate, especially their assistance to developing country delegations. Presentations made at side panels and questions asked of country delegations help to highlight the challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable. This interaction helps to put a human face on what can become faceless negotiations. But in addition to our project experience civil society will also have a key role to play to ensure the political promises are delivered. Organisations such as Climate Tracker, that monitor governments performance in decarbonisation and reforestation using global monitoring systems, are vital to hold governments to account on their climate actions.

    Overall the Paris Agreement sets us on a new path, hopefully one that is not only more sustainable, but one that is fair, just and equitable. The global fall in oil prices may finally be bringing home the message that we need a new global system and a new economic model. The fall probably has more to do with over production, falling demand and a glut in stored capacity, than the ramifications of the agreement in Paris, but the #Keepitintheground campaign among others highlighted the risks we are taking.  Financial resources and research capacity should be focused not on fracking and identifying new fossil fuel reserves, but instead at answering the challenges of renewable energy storage and distribution, necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.


    We need to start to thinking outside the box. Our current economic structures and processes were designed by thinkers who lived over a century ago; that world no longer exists. The agreement signed on Saturday has changed this world, by establishing a finite barrier of temperature increase. This agreement must send a clear message to investors, businesses and citizens that the fossil fuel age is over. We must ensure the transition to renewable energy is made as quickly as possible, and ensure this is done in a way that does not limit the development aspirations of those less fortunate than ourselves. As our founder said over half a century ago “Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility” E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful.

    Increased action is needed to achieve universal energy access before 2030


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