The Impact of Climate Change on Bangladesh’s Coastal Communities

Climate change poses significant challenges to Bangladesh’s coastal communities, which are highly vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels, increased flooding, and more frequent and intense cyclones. The low elevation of the land areas, the low gradient of the rivers, and the country’s exposure to the sea make Bangladesh particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change [1].

Sea-Level Rise

One of the major consequences of climate change is the rise in sea levels. In Bangladesh, where two-thirds of the country is less than 15 feet above sea level, this poses a significant threat [2]. By 2050, it is estimated that one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced due to climate change, with a projected 19.6 inch (50 cm) rise in sea level. This could result in the loss of approximately 11% of the country’s land and force up to 18 million people to migrate [2].

The Sundarbans, the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest located in southern Bangladesh, is also at risk of being inundated by rising seas. This forest not only sustains biodiversity and livelihoods but also acts as a natural barrier against cyclones. The loss of the Sundarbans would leave Bangladesh even more vulnerable to the devastating impacts of cyclones [2].

Salinization and Agricultural Impacts

Sea-level rise also leads to salinization, the process by which salt infiltrates agricultural land, hindering crop growth and limiting access to freshwater sources. Salinization has been increasingly affecting agricultural lands in Bangladesh, with the number of affected hectares growing from 8.3 million in 1973 to over 105.6 million in 2009 [2]. This threatens food security and the livelihoods of coastal communities who rely on agriculture for their sustenance.

Flooding and Urbanization

Climate change is making rainfall more erratic and intense, leading to devastating floods in Bangladesh. The country’s powerful river systems, including the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra River Basin, regularly burst their banks, affecting millions of people and causing significant damage to infrastructure and livelihoods [2]. As a result, over 10 million Bangladeshis are already considered climate refugees [2].

The impact of flooding is particularly severe for children, with around 12 million of the most affected children living in and around the powerful river systems in Bangladesh [2]. The displacement caused by riverbank flooding has led to significant urbanization, with up to 50% of those living in urban slums in Bangladesh having been forced to flee their rural homes [2]. However, settling in cities does not provide refuge from climate challenges but rather exposes migrants to overcrowded slums with poor living conditions and limited economic opportunities [2].


Bangladesh is highly susceptible to cyclones due to its geographical location and low-lying terrain. Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal can be directed towards Bangladesh’s coast and become more intense due to the funneling effect [2]. Over the past decade, cyclones have displaced an average of nearly 700,000 Bangladeshis each year, causing significant loss of life and destruction of infrastructure [2]. The frequency and intensity of cyclones are expected to increase with climate change, further exacerbating the vulnerability of coastal communities.

Climate Injustice

It is important to highlight the injustice faced by Bangladesh, as climate impacts are primarily imposed on the country by high-emitting, wealthy countries rather than being a result of its own actions [2]. Despite being responsible for only a small fraction of global emissions, Bangladesh ranks seventh on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate devastation [2]. This highlights the urgent need for international cooperation and support to address the impacts of climate change on Bangladesh’s coastal communities.

Overall, climate change poses significant challenges to Bangladesh’s coastal communities, including sea-level rise, salinization, flooding, and cyclones. These impacts not only threaten lives and livelihoods but also exacerbate existing inequalities and injustices. Urgent action is needed to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change in order to protect the vulnerable coastal communities of Bangladesh.

Learn more:

  1. Present status of impacts of climate change and adaptations in …
  2. How the Climate Crisis Is Impacting Bangladesh | The Climate Reality Project
  3. Bangladesh: Enhancing climate resilience in coastal towns | PreventionWeb

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