Photos: Lives rent asunder by climate change in Bangladesh

In 2018, two global agreements - one focused on the protection of refugees and the other on migration - are in the final stages of negotiation between governments, under the auspices of the United Nations. Each offers a rare opportunity to protect migrants from one of the biggest sources of displacement today - climate change. Through these images GMB Akash presents stories of loss from among the around 18 million Bangladeshis who risk displacement as the sea moves inward, expected to submerge as much as 17% of the country’s land by 2050.

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST 17 Photos
1 / 17
After years of peaceful existence in the house he had built with his wife and raised a family in, Shaha Ali saw the river Jamuna swallow the sum their lives one night – his wife’s wedding sari, Ali’s cherished radio and years of treasured belongings. A farmer, Ali’s family of seven now live in a plastic shed. He visits the riverbank everyday, trying to mark the spot where their home once stood. (GMB Akash)

After years of peaceful existence in the house he had built with his wife and raised a family in, Shaha Ali saw the river Jamuna swallow the sum their lives one night – his wife’s wedding sari, Ali’s cherished radio and years of treasured belongings. A farmer, Ali’s family of seven now live in a plastic shed. He visits the riverbank everyday, trying to mark the spot where their home once stood. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
2 / 17
Hasina Begum(L), says god gave cursed lives to those who were born in the northern coastal areas near the Sundarbans. Annual cyclones destroy anything built in Brahmanbaria. Salinity has turned the land barren and livelihood means fishing or collecting honey from a jungle filled with predators and pirates. She lost her husband to a famished visit to the jungle five years ago. Ever since, she worries about her daughters’ futures and safety. (GMB Akash)

Hasina Begum(L), says god gave cursed lives to those who were born in the northern coastal areas near the Sundarbans. Annual cyclones destroy anything built in Brahmanbaria. Salinity has turned the land barren and livelihood means fishing or collecting honey from a jungle filled with predators and pirates. She lost her husband to a famished visit to the jungle five years ago. Ever since, she worries about her daughters’ futures and safety. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
3 / 17
Love brought Bilkis Begum from Dhaka to Sariyakandi but the last eight years have been those of hardship. Every year unseasonal flash flooding and extreme river erosion make live in North Bengal miserable. The only educated woman on her island, she sold her only cow to buy a radio. Able to forewarn others about floods and bad weather since, her initiative has prevented weather related deaths on the island for six years. (GMB Akash)

Love brought Bilkis Begum from Dhaka to Sariyakandi but the last eight years have been those of hardship. Every year unseasonal flash flooding and extreme river erosion make live in North Bengal miserable. The only educated woman on her island, she sold her only cow to buy a radio. Able to forewarn others about floods and bad weather since, her initiative has prevented weather related deaths on the island for six years. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
4 / 17
Ashma Begum, 30, has lost six homes changing river flows. In the north, her memories of childhood are of extreme hunger and an uncertain future. She remembers helping rebuild the family home aged six after a flood. The river took their land and every dream she had. She wishes to escape the annual heartache of living in Kurigram and go to Dhaka to give her children a better life and a childhood. (GMB Akash)

Ashma Begum, 30, has lost six homes changing river flows. In the north, her memories of childhood are of extreme hunger and an uncertain future. She remembers helping rebuild the family home aged six after a flood. The river took their land and every dream she had. She wishes to escape the annual heartache of living in Kurigram and go to Dhaka to give her children a better life and a childhood. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
5 / 17
Fatema Begum has lived with loneliness for ten years. A decision to not evacuate despite severe warnings saw her bury her two daughters, her husband and her son in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr in 2007.She survived holding on to the only tree left standing in her village. Hunger brought her to Voirob, where she has been paying off a 20,000 taka loan through indentured labour drying out rice ever since. (GMB Akash)

Fatema Begum has lived with loneliness for ten years. A decision to not evacuate despite severe warnings saw her bury her two daughters, her husband and her son in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr in 2007.She survived holding on to the only tree left standing in her village. Hunger brought her to Voirob, where she has been paying off a 20,000 taka loan through indentured labour drying out rice ever since. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
6 / 17
Hamida Begum went to school, but her daughter doesn’t. Life on Gabura island revolves around water but it is all saline, brought inland once the Kholpetua river stagnates annually. Arable land is scarce and without freshwater cattle can’t survive. Hamida studied till SSC but her children like the rest are illiterate, spending days helping retrieve freshwater. Hamida is stuck to the island taking care of her elderly mother. (GMB Akash)

Hamida Begum went to school, but her daughter doesn’t. Life on Gabura island revolves around water but it is all saline, brought inland once the Kholpetua river stagnates annually. Arable land is scarce and without freshwater cattle can’t survive. Hamida studied till SSC but her children like the rest are illiterate, spending days helping retrieve freshwater. Hamida is stuck to the island taking care of her elderly mother. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
7 / 17
For the last five years, Arif has worked with his father and uncles in this factory that makes wheels for ships. Back in his village he went to school, played with friends and took care of his calf. Now, from morning to evening he works surrounded by loud sounds, fiery heat and clouds of toxic dust. This is his life after Cyclone Alia destroyed his home, salted the family lands and killed his calf. (GMB Akash)

For the last five years, Arif has worked with his father and uncles in this factory that makes wheels for ships. Back in his village he went to school, played with friends and took care of his calf. Now, from morning to evening he works surrounded by loud sounds, fiery heat and clouds of toxic dust. This is his life after Cyclone Alia destroyed his home, salted the family lands and killed his calf. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
8 / 17
Cyclone Aila left Hasina Begum with a lifelong sorrow. The drought after the flood destroyed the family’s farm and fisheries business in Brahmanbaria. Selling the land for a pittance, hunger eventually forced her to sell her six-year-old son just so that the other four members of the family could eat. She now works in Dhaka as a house maid but still has no answers for her daughter who asks where her elder brother’s gone. (GMB Akash)

Cyclone Aila left Hasina Begum with a lifelong sorrow. The drought after the flood destroyed the family’s farm and fisheries business in Brahmanbaria. Selling the land for a pittance, hunger eventually forced her to sell her six-year-old son just so that the other four members of the family could eat. She now works in Dhaka as a house maid but still has no answers for her daughter who asks where her elder brother’s gone. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
9 / 17
Hamida Begum never thought she would leave her land in Jessore and follow in the footsteps her seven sons who moved to Dhaka, but that is what she now faces. She has seen many cyclones in her 70 years, but the decade since Cyclone Ala has been the worst. Drought, frequent floods and storms as well fears of jungle animals have made life perilous. She leaves only memories in tow. (GMB Akash)

Hamida Begum never thought she would leave her land in Jessore and follow in the footsteps her seven sons who moved to Dhaka, but that is what she now faces. She has seen many cyclones in her 70 years, but the decade since Cyclone Ala has been the worst. Drought, frequent floods and storms as well fears of jungle animals have made life perilous. She leaves only memories in tow. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
10 / 17
Kala Chan, nearly 100, once owned 116 bighas of land in Sariyakandi. A life of opulence for his family turned into penury with passing years as the Ganga swallowed all but 16 bighas of his land. He now lives in the 15th house he has built over the years due to river erosion. His children have departed to cities and the life of a large landowner has now been replaced by a helpless dependant. (GMB Akash)

Kala Chan, nearly 100, once owned 116 bighas of land in Sariyakandi. A life of opulence for his family turned into penury with passing years as the Ganga swallowed all but 16 bighas of his land. He now lives in the 15th house he has built over the years due to river erosion. His children have departed to cities and the life of a large landowner has now been replaced by a helpless dependant. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
11 / 17
Khairul Mia sold cosmetics for 25 years in his village and lived a content life with his wife and daughter. Floods destroyed his home four times but he continued to buy land near the banks because it was cheaper. This time, the torrents were much crueler and took away all his cattle, savings for his daughter’s marriage and even the hawker’s box he had lugged around for 25 years. (GMB Akash)

Khairul Mia sold cosmetics for 25 years in his village and lived a content life with his wife and daughter. Floods destroyed his home four times but he continued to buy land near the banks because it was cheaper. This time, the torrents were much crueler and took away all his cattle, savings for his daughter’s marriage and even the hawker’s box he had lugged around for 25 years. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
12 / 17
Nurjahan Begum was just picking up life after Cyclone Sidr when Aila hit, taking away her crops, home and dignity. Her father-in-law died in grief at their loss and her husband deserted the family, marrying for money. She now works in this Narayanganj dumpyard with her two daughters taking care of her mother and mother-in-law. Her daughters are uneducated and this work has brought social ostracism. (GMB Akash)

Nurjahan Begum was just picking up life after Cyclone Sidr when Aila hit, taking away her crops, home and dignity. Her father-in-law died in grief at their loss and her husband deserted the family, marrying for money. She now works in this Narayanganj dumpyard with her two daughters taking care of her mother and mother-in-law. Her daughters are uneducated and this work has brought social ostracism. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
13 / 17
Parvin Akter moved to a rice field in Ashuganj two years ago with her two of her four daughters leaving behind life in Satkhira. Life that had become bruised with the salt Cyclone Aila left behind, taking with it her husband. Her years have been spent protecting them from danger and ensuring the luxury of fresh water. It’s back breaking work in the field, but water is guaranteed. So she toils. (GMB Akash)

Parvin Akter moved to a rice field in Ashuganj two years ago with her two of her four daughters leaving behind life in Satkhira. Life that had become bruised with the salt Cyclone Aila left behind, taking with it her husband. Her years have been spent protecting them from danger and ensuring the luxury of fresh water. It’s back breaking work in the field, but water is guaranteed. So she toils. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
14 / 17
Rita Begum’s life in a slum in Dhaka is more perilous than back in North Bengal by the banks of the Brahmaputra where she endured annual floods. Losing an infant daughter to floodwaters in 2010, her husband brought her to Dhaka after her mental health deteriorated following the birth of a son six years later. Here, while he plies a rickshaw, she worries about the frequent trains and her son’s safety. (GMB Akash)

Rita Begum’s life in a slum in Dhaka is more perilous than back in North Bengal by the banks of the Brahmaputra where she endured annual floods. Losing an infant daughter to floodwaters in 2010, her husband brought her to Dhaka after her mental health deteriorated following the birth of a son six years later. Here, while he plies a rickshaw, she worries about the frequent trains and her son’s safety. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
15 / 17
Rohomot Ali came to Dhaka two years ago, leaving behind his wife of 50 years. Suffering malnutrition, she lives in a drought affected area and battles deteriorating health. Ali is wracked by concern for his ailing wife and his inability to earn enough to send back home for her food or treatment or bring her to live with him in Dhaka. He wishes to be by her side when she dies. (GMB Akash)

Rohomot Ali came to Dhaka two years ago, leaving behind his wife of 50 years. Suffering malnutrition, she lives in a drought affected area and battles deteriorating health. Ali is wracked by concern for his ailing wife and his inability to earn enough to send back home for her food or treatment or bring her to live with him in Dhaka. He wishes to be by her side when she dies. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
16 / 17
Ruby Begum’s four children have neven seen a village. In this Dhaka slum that remains inundated most of the year, her stories are like fairytales. But even the village of her stories is now underwater after years of river erosion. The children cry every night from infected feet and injuries, but there is only ever enough money to eat or buy medicine. Her life in heaven has turned hell in Dhaka, Ruby says. (GMB Akash)

Ruby Begum’s four children have neven seen a village. In this Dhaka slum that remains inundated most of the year, her stories are like fairytales. But even the village of her stories is now underwater after years of river erosion. The children cry every night from infected feet and injuries, but there is only ever enough money to eat or buy medicine. Her life in heaven has turned hell in Dhaka, Ruby says. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
17 / 17
Salina Begum came to Dhaka from Gabura –surrounded by salty water and drought ravaged lands – and has been living in the streets since. Life changed after Cyclone Aila in 2009. Her husband countered the lack of food, sweet water and security by selling fish to provide one meal a day when he could. With most days under starvation she sold her only pair of gold rings, a family heirloom, to save the family’s lives. (GMB Akash)

Salina Begum came to Dhaka from Gabura –surrounded by salty water and drought ravaged lands – and has been living in the streets since. Life changed after Cyclone Aila in 2009. Her husband countered the lack of food, sweet water and security by selling fish to provide one meal a day when he could. With most days under starvation she sold her only pair of gold rings, a family heirloom, to save the family’s lives. (GMB Akash)

UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2018 06:49 PM IST
SHARE
Story Saved