Women are the worst sufferer in Barind tract
The Barind tract of Bangladesh is a drought prone region and the desertification process is getting amplified by climate change. Although human and all living organisms are the victims of the climate change happening in this region, women are found to be the worst sufferer. Unfortunately, many researches and studies are going on climate change but none of them have come up with the real and untold sufferings of women caused due to climate change.
North western part of Bangladesh predominantly known as Barind tract covering most of Dinajpur, Rangpur, Pabna, Rajshahi, Bogra, and Joypurhat districts of Rajshahi and Rangpur Division is known for its extreme climatic nature. The average annual rainfall in the region is 1,329 mm, while the rest of the country receives a rainfall of 4,338 mm which indicates the low rainfall intensity of the region. During summer the temperature goes up for 40-45 degree Celsius whereas the feeling temperature reaches much higher.
On the other hand the, people living in the region experience the coldest winter of Bangladesh. Impact of such dramatic climate is clearly visible on people’s lifestyle. People living in the region earn their livelihood from agriculture. Moreover, this region is the biggest supplier of rice of Bangladesh. Rice production requires a huge amount of water. In the past, agriculture of the region depended on surface water and rainfall. But, it has been evident that the nature of the climate in the region has changed. The frequency and intensity of rainfall have decreased and temperature has increased than before in the last few decades. These have contributed to the death of surface water bodies. After 1990, people started using ground water for agriculture and the over extraction of ground water has caused ground water depletion. According to Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) water table of Barind tract is depleting by 2 feet each year. This situation has brought huge suffering to people’s lives as they are struggling hard to manage drinking and domestic water. Water crisis in the region has become so extreme that people welcome their guests at home with everything except a glass of drinking water.
Although each and every person living in the region is facing water crisis, women are found to be one of the major victim of it. The traditional mindset of Bangladesh has bestowed household responsibilities upon women. In the region women manage all the house hold chores which also include household water management. Along with cooking, cleaning dishes, washing clothes and other household chores, they go to drinking and domestic water sources to fetch water two to three times in a day. The water sources are far from their house and located in scattered way. There are very few tube wells available in the regions that are functioning properly. As water in the region is a very scarce resource, people are bound to use pond water for cooking, cleaning dishes and other domestic purposes. Women collect domestic water from the nearest pond with a pitcher. In such hostile climate, where the weather is extremely hot and dry, they take two-three pots with them, travel a long distance, collect water from source and come back to the house. These women also work in field to earn money. So the additional work load on them due to water collection for several times in a day is beyond imagination. Such extreme workload is affecting their mental and physical health. Collecting water for house has become a daily tension for them as there is no certainty on the availability of water and it is increasing their mental stress. Sometimes, they take their children with them to collect more water for house.
On the other hand, male members of the family are engaged with field work. They neither help their partner in household activities nor in collecting water. It has become a tradition that it is only women’s job to collect water for the house. Women of this country face gender disparity in each and every stage of their lives. In rural area, gender gap is strongly visible. Although it takes a long research to understand the impact of climate change on human lives but here we see an interesting aspect of climate reality where gender disparity is getting exaggerated by climate change and it makes women to be the worst sufferer of climate change.
The writer is a lecturer of Dept of Urban and regional Planning, Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET)