Lightning Sheds: Safeguarding Lives and Livelihoods in north-eastern Bangladesh

Sustainable Solutions for Climate Challenges: Lightning Sheds in North-Eastern Bangladesh

May 31, 2023

The raw power of nature: A mesmerizing lightning strike illuminates the night sky, showcasing the immense forces at play during a thunderstorm. Photo: FAISAL AHMED/UNDP Bangladesh

In the lowlands of Sunamganj, a district in the Sylhet Division of north-eastern Bangladesh, lies a region characterised by vast Haors, and expansive wetlands that serve as a lifeline for the local communities. However, the Haor dwellers face numerous challenges due to climate change-induced adversities. With frequent flash floods, extended periods of submerged agricultural land, and the looming threat of lightning strikes, their livelihoods and lives are constantly at risk.

Just a year ago (2022), tragedy struck when three people lost their lives in the Haor during the rainy season. The absence of adequate shelter left them vulnerable and helpless. Even travelling to visit relatives became a perilous task, especially with children in tow. However, a glimmer of hope emerged as lightning sheds were introduced, providing a sense of safety and stability to the community.

A beacon of safety: The lightning shed stands as a resilient structure, providing shelter and protection for the community in the face of frequent lightning strikes and extreme weather events

The Haor region faces unique topographical challenges that set it apart from other areas in Bangladesh. Flash floods have become an annual occurrence, submerging agricultural lands for approximately six months each year. Consequently, the Haor inhabitants heavily rely on Boro paddy as their primary crop during the remaining months. The entire family, both men and women, actively participate in rice harvesting, threshing, drying, and packaging to protect their harvest from early floods. However, they often find themselves spending nights in the Haor without any nearby shelter or drinking water source.

Furthermore, the Haor serves as a fishing hub, attracting countless individuals during the monsoon season. Unfortunately, the absence of safe shelters leaves them exposed to the heightened risks of lightning strikes, flash floods, and boat accidents. Reports from major dailies have highlighted the vulnerability of low-lying haor areas, with Sunamganj recognised as one of the most lightning-prone places in the world. Tragically, within a year, 28 lives were lost, and six individuals were injured during activities such as paddy harvesting, cattle rearing, and fishing.

To address these challenges and foster resilience against climate change impacts, the Local Government Initiative on Climate Change also known as LoGIC, supported by UNDP, UNCDF, EU and Sweden, initiated the construction of lightning sheds. Under the Performance-Based Climate Resilience Grant (PBCRG), three multipurpose lightning sheds were built in Chayar haor, Bahara, Atgaon Union, Shalla upazila, and Kaliakota haor of Rafinagar Union, Derai upazila. The sheds, designed for year-round suitability, feature two stories, with the first-floor housing a tube well that benefits the entire community. Solar panels were also installed to ensure visibility and usability during night-time.

Guardians of Safety: Lightning shed stands tall amidst the tranquil waters, offering a secure haven for the Haor community during storms and lightning strikes.

Shabana Khatun, a housewife from Rofinagar Mirzapur in Sunamganj's Rofinagar Union Dirai, expressed relief, stating, "The lightning sheds make us feel safe, and now men can also make some extra income as they can go fishing at night, knowing there is a spot for shelter during inclement weather."

The positive impact of the lightning sheds has been evident. Ali Akbar, a farmer from Rofinagar village, expressed gratitude, stating, "Now we can have safe drinking water from the tube well in this shed. Farmers and fishermen used to die after being struck by lightning when they were working since there was no safe place and no trees to take shelter. Now we can quickly move to the lightning shed for safety during sudden rainstorms or thundershowers."

The Haor residents consider this project a successful intervention that supports farmers, fishermen, and boat passengers in the area. It has become a permanent asset of the Union Parishad, benefiting around 1,900 people from 130 households. Moreover, the establishment of an operation

Harnessing Hope Amidst Adversity: Lightning Sheds Illuminate Sunamganj's Path to Resilience