Misreading the Bengal Delta

Misreading the Bengal Delta

Climate Change, Development, and Livelihoods in CoastalBangladesh

Culture, Place, and Nature

by Camelia Dewan

Series edited by K. Sivaramakrishnan

Foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan

Published by: University of Washington Press

240 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm, 12 b&w illus., 2 maps, 2 tables

  • ISBN: 9780295749617
  • Published: December 2021



Perilously close to sea level and vulnerable to droughts, floods, erosions, and cyclones, Bangladesh has long been the recipient of international development funds earmarked for coping with climate change. Flawed assumptions that attribute causality solely to climate change have promoted unsustainable infrastructure such as “flood-protection” embankments. Furthermore, brackish aquaculture and high-yielding agriculture produce unintended environmental effects and further weaken livelihood capacities. At the same time, this focus on climate change adaptation diverts attention away from coastal vulnerabilities caused by underemployment, microcredit-related indebtedness, and lack of public health and educational infrastructure.

Unpacking the complexities of environmental degradation and local gendered livelihood concerns often neglected in meta-narratives of climate change, Misreading the Bengal Delta reveals that development interventions have not only contributed to but exacerbated Bangladesh’s future climatic vulnerability. Combining detailed environmental history with ethnography engaging with multiple, conflicting perspectives, from poor rural coastal populations to middle-class bureaucrats, researchers, development consultants, and NGO staff, this book shows how misreading climate change has served as justification for development projects in the Global South that fail to engage with the actual needs of the communities they are intended to help.