The only prospect one can expect to witness in this rural area is the presence of never-ending miles of dead lands, robbed of their fertility. Some regions are always waterlogged. There is water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! The most severe times are the summers and winters, when rainfall is minimal.
One who manages to preserve some rainwater is lucky, else they have to travel long distances to acquire pure drinking water. This new age has proved to be very devious for the farmers as farming is definitely not an option; so the agrarian nature of the indigenous people has rapidly faded like the dying lands. With nothing to feed their children, the people have picked up shrimp and crab farming. The international market for this is enormous and the people were quick enough to shift their priorities.
However, these farms are gigantic and require lesser manpower. So, this change in occupation only increased the levels of unemployment, as many do not possess any land at all. The other option (sometimes the only option) is to enter the forests of Sundarbans to fish and collect honey; but the jungle is only a synonym for death to these people.
Many have died from tiger attacks and many still continue to die. Some have lost their sons and fathers; they have no one to live for. Many have been widowed and many more injured. The locals refer to some of these villages as ‘widow villages’.
With such dangers many choose the easy way out and turn into pirates, kidnapping whomever they can from the jungle and demand ransoms from their families. To sum up, one can either cultivate shrimps (which pays very little); put their lives in danger by going to the forests filled with hungry tigers and pirates. On the other hand, some have capitalized this opportunity to gain more influence and power over the locals.
These men are the rich landowners who rent their lands for cultivation, and also loan money to the needy with harsh interest rates. They are only ones who have benefitted from this climate change while the majority are only victims.
Hamida, (45) is a native who has lost both her husband and son in two consecutive years. They both died because of tiger attacks. She is suffering, her daily income is less than a dollar. She doesn’t let her younger son go to the forest; she would rather let him be unemployed. She is afraid she might lose him too. Now she can only stare at the salted lands and hope for it all to be a bad dream.
Some fortunate ones thank their gods and goddesses for letting them survive the tiger attacks, even though they were seriously injured. Shubash, (40) had first-hand experience with one of the attacks.
He lost a fraction of his face to a starving tiger and was disabled. He will have to spend the rest of his life with this ill health. His son has to go the forest now and bring home dinner. They are not the only ones – there are others like them.
My project offers me the insights into these helpless people’s lives. I have seen children deprived of their parents and wives deprived of their families. Initially, I was ashamed of myself for not being able to do anything.
However, when I see the warm glow of hope in some of their eyes, I instantly believe that I am doing nothing. I know that even only by just talking to them I create a thin but existent layer of hope for them. For them, it’s a sign that at least someone cares – even if it is an insignificant person like me.
Written and photographed by: Ismail Ferdous
CORRECTION IN TITLE – “Climate Fury Shatkhira : Bangladesh”