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© Jashim Salam / WWF-UK
Chittagong, Bangladesh
Documenting the flooded city

In Chittagong, Bangladesh tidal surges are affecting the city as often as twice a day, frequently flooding homes and businesses. Jashim Salam, a local photographer, has made it his mission to document the devastating flooding his community experiences.

Chittagong is the second-largest city in Bangladesh, densely populated with over 4 million people. As a large port city, Chittagong is on the front lines of the climate crisis, already experiencing regular flooding due to sea level rise.

Jashim lives in his parents’ old home with his wife and daughter, six older brothers and their families.

I remember the tidal surges started happening in Chittagong from 2009, when sudden floods would happen in my neighbourhood. Before this, there was no flooding in the city.

“When the extreme tidal surge first happened in 2009, I saw many houses getting flooded, but there was no rain – it was a sunny day. I started taking pictures of this. After a few days the flood happened again and this time my house got flooded for the first time. I came home and found many of my belongings underwater – even my camera.”

Daily life in the flood

Children watching TV in their flooded house. They

Children watching TV in their flooded house. They're unable to go to school as the roads have been affected by tidal floodwater.

©Jashim Salam / WWF-UK
Young people celebrating Eid, a religious festival, travelling by rickshaw during a heavy tidal surge.

Young people celebrating Eid, a religious festival, travelling by rickshaw during a heavy tidal surge.

©Jashim Salam / WWF-UK
A local man trying to save his belongings during a tidal flood in Chaktai, Chittagong.

A local man trying to save his belongings during a tidal flood in Chaktai, Chittagong.

©Jashim Salam / WWF-UK

In 2013 the World Bank stated that Bangladesh will be hit by increasing river floods, more intense tropical cyclones, very high temperatures, and rising sea-levels. They project a 27cm sea level rise in as little as twenty years. This could leave many communities completely under water.

Sudden vulnerability

“Local people are growing increasingly concerned - we may have to move from our homes due to this excess of water. The effects of climate change have brought a sudden vulnerability to the lives and livelihoods of people living in Chittagong and the coastal areas of Bangladesh.”

I used to live on the ground floor, but my house flooded every year. I tried to block my entrance, but this wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to leave my parents’ house; my house! I didn’t think this flooding would happen every year, but still it keeps happening.

People are now used to living with the flooding and know that the water will go down in a few hours. “People living downstairs on the ground floor get affected worse. Most people go to a workplace or their kids go to the school to shelter if they need to. But accidents do happen. A few years ago, during a flood in a slum area, electricity got into the water and electrified a man, killing him.”

“There’s a plan in the city to make a large embankment on the river, and to make a barrage to make sure water can’t enter. They will make a gate - during the tide they’ll close the gate, then open it when the tide goes.” Jashim says that this project has started, although there is no visible action yet. He does not know when they plan on completing it or how it will work but he is going to document every step.