The southwest coastal region of Bangladesh is a climate hotspot and one of the most vulnerable areas in the world to natural disasters. Around one million people in this region is involved with fishing in the estuaries and most cyclone-prone Bay of Bengal. Recently the rate of cyclones and sea depressions has increased, which creates risks for fisher communities. When fishing in the Bay during sea depression, fishermen have two options: coming back without fish or taking risk of sinking.

To cover the expenses, fishermen are forced to sell their assets to repay loans, which have been taken before the trip.  In some cases, they are washed out by the wind and tide, rescued by the marine forces of neighbouring countries and faced jail as illegal intruders. Some times the fishermen may lose both their boats and lives. The fishers contribute to our food security, livelihoods and economic growth as well as national GDP. Unfortunately the fisher communities live an inhuman life year round.

In this context local development organization AOSED has initiated a Vessel Tracking, Warning and Disaster Preparedness System (VTS), and tested a pilot project to establish a climate resilient fisher community in Southwest Coastal Region of Bangladesh. VTS has been developed through using existing Vehicle Tracking Device (VTD), telecommunication network for transmission service. To operate the system, electricity facilities are fueled by Solar Power System.

A set of safety materials such as lifeboyas, life jackets, signal lights, radio, mobile phone and compass have also been provided so that the fishermen might be protected during their trip in the Sea. Effective partnerships and linkages have been developed with disaster and rescue related institutions. Although this technology is the first of its kind in the region and among the fisher communities, they have adapted well to the new technology and equipment.

Objectives and beneficiaries

The main objective is to establish a climate resilient fisher community in Southwest Coastal Region of Bangladesh for long term livelihoods certainty and improvement. The initiative aims to enhance:

- Knowledge, skills and capacities of fisher community on disaster preparedness
- Occupational safety and risks management by using safety materials
- Income opportunities and alternative livelihood of fishers in off season through training workshop, awareness sessions and field schools

For the traditional seagoing fishing boats, all combined makes an effective long term improvement and certainty in livelihoods. Through this pilot project 30 fisher groups with 300 fishermen from 44 seagoing traditional fishing boats, 30 women groups and their 191 family members are covered, which makes a total of 897 direct beneficiaries.

Strong points of the practice

We are saving lives and assets of seagoing fisher communities in the climate vulnerable southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, through capacity building and coordination of fisher groups, as well as through the use of enhanced early warning systems and communication technology.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

Achievements of pilot project (March 2015 to February 2016):
- Successfully developed and installed Vessel Tracking System (VTS) in the seagoing traditional 10 boats that are working effectively
- Develop active connection system with VTS Operating Center (VTSOC) and Meteorological department and through this process, getting weather information in advance to be provided and translated to easy understanding to the fishers groups.
- Fisher groups are responding the live communication properly and they are spontaneously sharing this information to other fishers groups in the sea.
- Fisher groups are using safety materials and following the disaster preparedness guidelines properly.
- Fisher groups were able to return 3 times to safe shelter from the deep sea due to sea depression during fishing season in the project period.

Replicability potential of the practice

All the tropical countries and regions are facing increased tropical cyclones and sea depression regularly. This project used locally available technologies such as VTS, Mobile phone and Internet services which are available in almost all regions. This technology can be replicated in any country where small and marginal fishermen collect fish from nearby sea. The project can be replicated in different sectors like workers in remote areas.

[Editor's Note: All information published as submitted by the author(s). Minor edits may have been made to increase readability and understanding.]