DRH-Asia: Disaster Reduction Hyperbase
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1. Title

Indigenous Knowledge on Flood Risk Management in Bangladesh

ID: DRH 17 Toilet and houses built on platform raised above flood level .
Hazard: Flood

Transferable indigenous knowledge (TIK)

Proposer: Muhammad Saidur Rahman
Date posted: 06 February 2008
Date published: 13 October 2008
Copyright © 2008 Muhammad Saidur Rahman (proposer). All rights reserved.

Toilet and houses built on platform raised above flood level .


Muhammad Saidur Rahman
Director, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center (BDPC)
House 15A, Road 8, Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Telephone: + 88 (02) 9862169, +88 (02) 9880573, +88 (02) 8819718,
Mobile: +88 (02) 1711524722
Fax: +88 (02) 8819718
E-mail: saidur1943@gmail.com and saidur@bdpc.org.bd

2. Major significance / Summary

Due to geographical location Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world. Every year it is affected by flood of varying magnitude. Since the term “disaster management” is understood as post-disaster relief and rehabilitation operations by policy makers and the key actors, hardly any importance is given on pre-disaster preparedness. Early warning against flood is not disseminated in a way which is understandable by the people at risk.

Since people in different areas use their indigenous knowledge to cope with flood disasters, there is a need to collect and collate good practices from different areas and promote them widely to the entire flood-prone areas through effective communication media.

3. Keywords

Indigenous knowledge, flood risk, vulnerabilities.

II. Categories

4. Focus of this information

Transferable indigenous knowledge (TIK)

5. Users

5-1. Anticipated users: Community leaders (voluntary base) , NGO/NPO project managers and staff , Teachers and educators , Rural planners , Environmental/Ecological specialists

5-2. Other users: Policy makers , Motivated researchers , Local residents

6. Hazards focused


7. Elements at risk

Human lives , Human networks in local communities , Business and livelihoods , Rural areas , River banks and fluvial basin , Agricultural lands

III. Contact Information

8. Proposer(s) information (Writer of this template)

Muhammad Saidur Rahman
Director, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center (BDPC)
House 15A, Road 8, Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Telephone: + 88 (02) 9862169, +88 (02) 9880573, +88 (02) 8819718,
Mobile: +88 (02) 1711524722
Fax: +88 (02) 8819718
E-mail: saidur1943@gmail.com and saidur@bdpc.org.bd

9. Country(ies)/region(s) where the technology/knowledge/practice originated


10. Names and institutions of technology/knowledge developers

Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center-BDPC

11. Title of relevant projects if any

12. References and publications

BDPC: Flipcharts, Baner Shathe Bosobas (living with flood), BDPC project reports.

13. Note on ownership if any

IV. Background

14. Disaster events and/or societal circumstances, which became the driving force either for developing the technology/knowledge or enhancing its practice

Bangladesh is characterized by flat terrain of alluvial soil, criss-crossed with an intricate system of over 230 rivers and rivulets. It is the largest delta of the three major river systems of the world ie The Ganges, The Bramahputras and The Meghna. 92.5% of the catchment areas of these river systems lie in the upstream, beyond the international boundary of Bangladesh. As such, the very geographical location makes the country very prone to flood disasters.  Due to poor economic condition, the impacts of floods are high and heavy on the physical infrastructure and the life and livelihood of the people. A brief statistics of three major flood disasters during the last two decades is presented below: 


1988 floods   Inundated 61% of the country, estimated damage   US$ 1.2 billion, affected more than 45 million people
1998 floods    Inundated nearly 100,000 sq-km, estimated damage US     $ 2.8 billion, damaged 500,000 homes, rendered 30  million people homeless,  heavy loss to infrastructure,   1,100 deaths
2004   Inundation 38%, damage US$ 6.6 billion deaths 700,    affected people nearly 3.8 million

  Disaster management is quite often understood by the key actors as post-disaster relief and rehabilitations operation. As such, inadequate level of importance is given on risk management and disaster preparedness at family and community level. This can be reflected by the fact that flood early warning issued by very well equipped public agency is not easily understood by the community at risk. Nor are they related to local context. Hence there is a need to promote indigenous knowledge of survival and coping with floods to all the people living in flood-prone areas. 


V. Description

15. Feature and attribute

Poor people living in flood prone areas for hundred of years, practice indigenous knowledge for a number of activities including the following ones for preparedness, coping and response in flood disasters.  

1.Preparedness before the flood

 Before the flood season starts in June, the people conduct various activities which include raising the plinths of houses, cattle shed, installing toilet on raised ground (these are done considering the highest level of previous flood). Repair and strengthen houses by putting strong bamboo or other wooden pillars and make the thatched wall of the houses stronger. Plant trees around their houses to protect those from soil erosion. Store emergency survival dry food, fodder, seeds, fire woods and keep portable earthen cooking stove for use during emergencies.


Figure-1&2: Toilet and houses built on platform raised above flood level

2.Coping with flood disasters

There are a lot of coping mechanisms practiced in flood-prone areas. People make raised bamboo or wooden platforms inside their rooms to live and keep useful materials above the level of flood water which enters their houses. During the flood season, all the roads are inundated. It becomes difficult to move from the houses for daily essential activities. It is quite common during this time that people use raft, made of banana-plants, for their movement and communication.


“Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”, this is the common scene during the flood. Almost all the tube wells go under flood water. To keep the hand pump of the tube well above the raising level of water, in some areas people add additional pipe.


Figure 3: Raft made of banana plants                                   Figure 4: Traditional cultivation in flood prone area


3.After the flood

At this stage, flood affected people repair their houses, clear the debris from the house, plant quick growing vegetables and start income generating activities.  


16. Necessary process to implement

Raising plinth of houses and cattle shed

For raising the plinth of houses, toilets and cattle sheds, people generally use earth from the nearby open space. They raise the platform by piling up earth considering the highest flood level. For compressing the land they use rammer. Grass and other small plants are planted on the slopes of raised houses. 


Figure 5: Raising the plinth houses


Installing toilets on raised ground

 Most of the toilets in flood prone areas are built on digging the earth and setting up the rings made of concrete in it. During the flood season toilets go under water, cause problems for people especially the women and creates water pollution. As such, people install toilets on raised ground. At first they raise the ground with earth and then install the toilets on it.


Tree plantation for protecting houses from soil erosion

 There are a number of trees which can protect houses from soil erosion. These include Dhol Kolmi, Kasia, Bamboo, Banana, Hogla, Chailla (local Bengali names) etc. The people in flood-prone areas plant these surrounding their houses. These quick growing trees are found in every flood prone area.  


Food preservation

 Flood creates scarcity of food. During the flood in Bangladesh, it is the people of the community who survive in emergency period managing food by themselves. Generally, emergency food supplied by the humanitarian organizations or government organizations reach those areas after a few days of the flood. Even the quantity of food is not enough for the victims. So, the people of these areas preserve dry foods for using in flood emergency. The foods which are preserved before the flood are Muri (puffed rice), Chira (pressed rice), Sugarcane Molasses, Naru (made of coconut and molasses), dried jackfruit seeds. These food are stored in various means such as preserving in shika (a kind of bag made of jute strings which are hanged from ceiling), packing dry food in air tight polythene.  



Preservation of portable earthen cooking stove and fuel

 Generally, the people in flood-prone areas cook their food by earthen cooking stove using fuel like jute stick, dried up cow dung. Since maximum families rear cattle, so, cow dung is easily available. They preserve portable earthen cooking stove and fuel for using during the flood disasters.

Fig. 6: earthen cooking stove




Raising suction head of tube well

The suction head of tube well is raised above the level of rising flood water by using additional pipe.


Fig. 7: Raising the suction head of tube well






Cultivating on floating platform

 During the flood, people use floating platform for the purpose of growing crops (mainly vegetables). Generally these platforms are made of bamboo. At first the bamboos are put on the water keeping equal gap among the bamboos. Then these are tied with rope. The bamboos are covered with mats which are also made of bamboo. Clay is piled up on the mat to prepare a land for plantation.        


Making Raft 

 Banana plants are grown widely in flood prone areas. Generally, people grow these around their houses for fruits. During the flood season, banana plants are used as raft. A few banana plants, at least two are used for making raft. The plants are affixed with each other by strong sticks then it is tied up by rope. It is used during flood as a way of communication.



Repair the houses   

  After the flood, people start to repair their houses by themselves. They use thatch or bamboo to repair their houses.    




Plant fast growing vegetables

   Fast growing vegetables are planted after the flood like cucumber, spinaches, ladies finger, brinjal etc.


17. Strength and limitations

Strength      There are a number of strengths of the projects. They include the following:

  • The indigenous knowledge is practiced for hundreds of years
  • It is rooted in the traditional culture of rural society
  • They are easy to replicate in areas where some of the good practices are not used

The project will have sustainable impact on the life and livelihood of people for generations

  • The public and private institutions place dis-proportionate emphasis on post-flood relief and rehabilitation operations giving very limited focus on appreciation and supporting community practice and culture
  • Lack of appreciation from key actors in the field of disaster management, including donors and NGOs, for empowerment of the poor and the disadvantaged living in areas vulnerable to the threats of flood disaster.

18. Lessons learned through implementation if any

A project on promotion and disseminate of indigenous knowledge titled as “Promotion of Family and Community Level Flood Preparedness Through Public Awareness Program” was implemented in the Chowhali Upazila (sub-district) Under Sirajgonj district of Bangladesh. The lessons learned through implementation of the  project are as follows:

    a.early warning systems were integrated at community level

    b. people were aware on preparedness activities

    c. people’s coping capacity against flood was enhanced

    d. established network between community, NGOs, GOs and other service providing agencies.


VI. Resources required

19. Facilities and equipments required

Local facilities included: School, Union Parishad, Upazila Parishad, UNO (Upzila Nirbahi Officer) conference room etc. were used for providing training and arranging meetings. 

 Equipments required: computer, training materials, materials for collection of secondary information etc.


20. Costs, organization, manpower, etc.

Approximately US$ 300,000 would be required to design, develop and pilot the project for a population of approximately 300,000 in two highly flood prone sub districts of Bangladesh. 


VII. Message from the proposer if any

21. Message

VIII. Self evaluation in relation to applicability

22. How do you evaluate the technology/knowledge that you have proposed?

It is a technology/knowledge that has fair applicability demonstrated by implementation in one or more field sites.

23. Notes on the applicability if any

IX. Application examples


    E1-1. Project name if available

    Promotion of Family and Community Level Flood Preparedness Through Public Awareness Programme

    E1-2. Place

    The project was implemented in the Chowhali Upazila (sub-district) under the district of Sirajgonj of Bangladesh. Total land area of the area is about 210 sq. km.

    E1-3. Year


    E1-4. Investor

    DIPECHO (European Union) through an Italian NGO called APS

    E1-5. People involved

    The involvement of people to implement the projects were as follows:

    Project Staff: Project Director, Project Coordinator, Research Consultant, Research Officers, Research Assistants, Program Officers, Admin-cum-Accounts Officer, IEC Materials Development Officer, Training Officers, Computer Operator, Messenger, Local NGO Workers and Security guards.

    Volunteers: Change Agents (volunteers as teachers, social respected persons, students, imams of the mosques etc.)

    Disaster Management Committee: UDMC (Union Disaster Management Committee) members, UzDMC (Upazila Disaster Management Committee) members.

    Government Officers: UNO (Upazila Nirbahi Officer), Agriculture Officer, Livestock Officers and other department’s officers.

    E1-6. Monetary costs incurred

    US $100,000

    E1-7. Total workload required

    Timeframe: One year  

    Human Resources: 28 Project Staffs, UzDMC and UDMC committee members and Change Agents (volunteers).  

    E1-8. Evidence of positive result

    Positive Results: enhancement of coping capacity, loss reduces, raising awareness, identification of the indigenous survival techniques, awareness on preparedness, promotion of effective links and partnerships between community and NGOs, CBOs, and/or Government agencies, Key actors’ encouragement and inspiration to integrate indigenous risk reduction practices into the planning and implementation of their disaster management programs



X. Other related parallel initiatives if any


XI. Remarks for version upgrade


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