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Bamboo Beating Bandits: Conflict, Inequality, and Vulnerability in the Political Ecology of Climate Change Adaptation in Bangladesh

Journal Article

Bangladesh contributes little to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet it is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Based on semi-structured research interviews as a conduit to a literature review, this paper shows how the processes of enclosure, exclusion, encroachment, and entrenchment impede the vitality of its climate change adaptation efforts. Enclosure refers to when adaptation projects transfer public assets into private hands or expand the roles of private actors into the public sphere. Exclusion refers to when adaptation projects limit access to resources or marginalize particular stakeholders in decision-making activities. Encroachment refers to when adaptation projects intrude on biodiversity areas or contribute to other forms of environmental degradation. Entrenchment refers to when adaptation projects aggravate the disempowerment of women and minorities, or worsen concentrations of wealth and income inequality within a community. In the case of Bangladeshi, climate change policies implemented under the country’s National Adaptation Program of Action have enabled elites to capture land through public servants, the military, and even gangs carrying bamboo sticks. Exclusionary forms of adaptation planning exist at both the national and local scales. Climate protection measures have encroached upon village property, char (public) land, forests, farms, and other public commons. Most egregiously, community coping strategies for climate change have entrenched class and ethnic hierarchies ultimately trapping the poor, powerless, and displaced into a predatory patronage system that can aggravate human insecurity and intensify violent conflict. Planners and practitioners of adaptation need to become more cognizant of the potential for projects to harm others, or admit complicity in the processes of enclosure, exclusion, encroachment, and entrenchment, if they are ever to be eliminated.

Read more about Benjamin Sovacool and his work at CIED.