Building a new road in Khulna, Bangladesh
Bangladesh: cooperation in action

Adapting cities to climate change

Bangladesh is one of the countries that will be most strongly affected – compared to the rest of the world – by climate change. Rising sea levels threaten to leave one fifth of the country permanently under water. At the same time, with a population density of 1,265 inhabitants per square kilometre, it is already one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Within the framework of a joint initiative for ecological urban development, Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), which is being supported through German development cooperation in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), medium-sized cities in Bangladesh and other Asian countries are receiving assistance as they seek to adapt to the consequences of climate change. One key element of this collaboration is drawing up project feasibility studies, which are an important basis for receiving funding for investments in urban infrastructure. However, many cities in Bangladesh lack the technical know-how to prepare such studies without assistance.

The example of Khulna

Khulna is a city that has already benefited from German development activities in Bangladesh. The city, which is located in the south-west part of the country, is surrounded by the Bhairab and Rupsha rivers and lies just two to four metres above sea level. Because of its location, the city is prone to severe flooding during the monsoon season. This is a difficult situation for Khulna's 1.5 million inhabitants, about 40 per cent of whom are afflicted by poverty. On the roads, 80 per cent of the traffic is non-motorised vehicles like rickshaws. However, because even these means of transport are often too expensive for poor people, many of them walk everywhere. Walking is a risky undertaking in Bangladesh as there are usually no pavements or proper footpaths. At the same time, the roads in Bangladesh often serve as dams and play a key role in protecting towns and cities from floods.

With the help of the CDIA, Khulna has been able to build ten kilometres of access roads in the poorer parts of the city, so that about 200,000 people now have a permanent connection to the transport network. The Government of Bangladesh has funded part of the costs, however the full funding was only possible with the assistance of the ADB and KfW Development Bank. Furthermore, the roads were built with a system of drainage ditches so that, during the monsoon season, districts within the city are no longer left under water for weeks. The danger of flooding is now significantly lower and the quality of life for the local people has been much improved. One local resident reported that the roads used to be flooded for up to six months of the year, whilst the new access roads have not yet been flooded once. These roads have also opened up new economic opportunities.

Included in the project were measures such as increasing the height of embankment roads, strengthening riverbank protection and extensive urban greening. Abir ul Jabbar, the head of Khulna's planning authority, says: "The project meets the city's transport and mobility needs and has contributed to making our road infrastructure climate-smart and environmentally friendly."

The example of Barisal

Barisal, the second-biggest coastal city in Bangladesh, has also received assistance under German development cooperation to help it make adaptations to deal with the consequences of climate change. The region is regularly subject to floods due to heavy rainfall and storm surges, with the slum quarter of Barisal being the first area to be affected. With German support, low-lying main thoroughfares have been renewed and raised so that they can be used as important emergency roads in the event of extreme weather situations.

Over the last few decades the population in Barisal has grown rapidly and it is estimated that around 110,000 people live in the slums. The growing demand for housing has a direct impact on the drainage systems. The systems are already struggling to cope, partly because of waste and rubble blocking 150 kilometres of drainage channels.

With German support, the drainage systems have been expanded and the capacity of the drainage channels has been increased. Drainage and flood protection systems can reduce the enormity of the climate-induced problems Barisal is facing and shorten the length of the flooding to a few days. This means that the danger for roads and schools is reduced and parts of the city with weak infrastructure are less susceptible.

Flooding in the city of Barisal, Bangladesh


Flooding in the city of Barisal, Bangladesh
Rickshaw driver on the completed bypass road in Khulna, Bangladesh
Rickshaw driver on the completed bypass road in Khulna, Bangladesh
Dam road to protect a residential area at the port of Khulna in Bangladesh
Two workers on a construction site on the banks of the Mayur River in the city of Khulna on a bank reinforcement.
Rickshaw driver on the completed bypass road in Khulna, Bangladesh
Rickshaw driver on the completed bypass road in Khulna, Bangladesh

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