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A smiling Mosammet Sukkur Jahan, walks to her thatched home in Datiar Char (shoal) in northern Bangladesh to prepare lunch for her family. While eating, Jahan and her neighbors Sharifa, Amena, and Halima were at ease as flood water rushed around their homes located in the middle of vast Teesta River during August and September 2014. They live on a shoal, which is an elevated sandbar that keeps their homes dry.
Chars or Shoals form through siltation along riverbeds. The constant interplay of erosion and accretion creates and sustains the shoals. There are mainly three types of chars: dead, mature, and running. Dead chars are usually permanent land formations. Mature chars are the ones that have not faced any major changes for 10-15 years. Running chars face regular changes and continuous emerge and disappear. The emergence and erosion determines the intensity of vulnerability in the ‘chars’. Typically a new char land requires at least 10 years of continuous presence before it becomes habitable for people.
My mother Manel Kirtisinghe encapsulated what the loss of a loved one in the tsunami meant, when she wrote in her diary “What you deeply in your heart possess, you cannot lose by death." On 26 Dec. 2004, Prasanna went away leaving behind for me a lasting vacuum and a silent aching grief.”
Prasanna was my brother and this year when we observe religious rituals in memory of him, my mother will not be there with us. She left us earlier this year. Prasanna was our bulwark and the trauma of his death was so intensely felt that it took us seven years to rebuild and return to our beloved house. My mother was happy to be back in the house she had come to as a bride in 1944, but she stubbornly refused to go to the back verandah or to walk on the beach - a ritual she did twice a day before the tsunami.
As my mother did, we all had our coping mechanisms to handle the pain. The grief is still with me hastily boxed and lodged inside me but about this time of the year the lid flies open and the horror spills out. The images gradually become more vivid, intense, horrifying. Like a slow moving movie, they appear…and the nightmares return.
In the days following the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the World Bank disaster risk management (DRM) community worked to assess the damage, and support the Haitian government plan and enact what would become a massive and protracted recovery from this profound disaster. Accurate and up to date maps of the country were an important component of these planning efforts. These maps came from an unexpected source, a global community of volunteer mappers, who, using their internet connections and access to satellite imagery, were able to contribute to mapping Haiti from their own homes.
Following the Haiti earthquake, the World Bank, Google, and several other entities made high-resolution imagery of the affected area available to the public. Over 600 individuals from the global OpenStreetMap (OSM) community began digitizing the imagery, tracing roads, building outlines, and other infrastructure, creating what quickly became the most detailed map of Port au Prince that had ever existed. Volunteers from 29 countries made about 1.2 million edits to the map, performing an estimated year of cartographic work in about 20 days. This effort catalyzed a rethinking of community mapping and open data within the World Bank and other international institutions.