Coping with crisis on the coast: The effect of community-developed coping-strategies on vulnerability in crisis-prone regions of the Ganges delta

J Environ Manage. 2021 Apr 15;284:112072. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.112072. Epub 2021 Feb 9.


Coastal communities are prone to crises. Repeated exposure to crises constrains the ability of residents to access basic needs such as health, water and food, and may increase their vulnerability levels. In response, communities develop coping strategies such as depoldering (temporary breaching of embankments for TRM: tidal rivers management) and anti-aquaculture movements. However, existing research has not adequately explored the relationship between coping strategies and vulnerability. Theoretical literature is characterized by ambiguity on how various geocentric and anthropocentric factors affect vulnerability in the presence of community-developed coping strategies. Therefore, to advance theoretical knowledge in this field, this article first conceptualizes an integrated framework on the association between vulnerability and coping strategies by merging anthropocentric and geocentric approaches. It then uses mixed methods drawn from social science (surveys, semi-structured interviews), geography (spatial tools) and statistics (multiple regression) on data collected from the coastal belt of Bangladesh to demonstrate that coping strategies may have an effect on vulnerability in crisis-prone coastal regions. The significance of this study is that it demonstrates how the association between vulnerability and coping strategies is likely to be nuanced: depending on a) the type of vulnerability (food/water/health), and b) the coping strategy (TRM vs. anti-aquaculture movements). Different coping strategies are associated with different kinds of vulnerability and these relationships depend on local context (other anthropocentric and geocentric variables). Community movements against aquaculture could reduce food vulnerability, whereas TRM may reduce water vulnerability. Reduction in health vulnerability may instead be associated with urbanization and infrastructure development.

Keywords: Community movements against aquaculture; Coping-strategies; Crisis; Ganges delta; Polder; Tidal river management; Vulnerability.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Bangladesh
  • Geography
  • Urbanization*