Macquarie University
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Social capital and cyclones: how households' social networks contribute to disaster resilience and recovery in Bangladesh

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:56 authored by Md Rabiul Islam
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to cyclones and storm surges. Due to climate change, the frequency of cyclones and storm surges is expected to increase on the Bangladesh coast. These events create enormous damage and loss and increase community vulnerabilities. Over the last decade, many studies have examined how these vulnerabilities can be addressed and how the capacities of households can be strengthened to build more resilient communities. Little of this research has considered the contribution of social capital to disaster resilience and recovery in Bangladesh, and on the Indian sub-continent generally. This current research seeks to address this gap in the research by examining the contribution of social networks (particularly bonding networks - households' relationships with immediate family members and other relatives; bridging networks - households' relationships with neighbours and friends; and linking networks - households' relationships with organisations, for example NGOs, local government and other community-based organisations ) to disaster resilience and recovery. Through a mixed methods approach using household surveys, focus groups, key informant interviews, workshops and meetings, this study examines when social networks perform strongly and poorly in disaster resilience and recovery; how households' assets enable and constrain their contributions through bonding and bridging social networks; how social networks are articulated in the disaster management policies of Bangladesh; and what opportunities there are to strengthen the capacity of social networks to contribute effectively to disaster resilience and recovery, using two coastal villages affected by Cyclone Sidr as case studies. Findings show that bonding and bridging networks provide very important support - sharing of food and shelter, providing comfort, etc. - immediately after a disaster. As the time after the disaster increases, these networks perform less well due to households' limited physical, financial and human capital, and the uncertainties of their access to natural capital. After a period, bridging networks become less active and sometimes break down due to competition and conflict over access to external relief support. Bonding networks, however, do not break down. Household members continue contributing to the recovery process by reducing food intake, helping with alternative income and livelihood options through temporary migration and so on. For longer-term recovery, however, disaster victims usually need support through linking social networks - from NGOs (e.g. local, national and foreign NGOs), local government and other community-based organisations (CBO). their links with NGOs and local government provide households with strong support in the form of emergency relief, shelter, livelihood assistance, and reconstruction of major community services. However, while providing this support, they often engage in corruption through favouritism and taking bribes. These poor practices of NGOs and local government foster inequality, discontent and mistrust (between households, and between households and organisations), which, in the long run, harm linking relationships. This study found that despite the importance of social capital in disaster resilience and recovery, households' social networking relationships are not given adequate emphasis in the disaster management policies of Bangladesh ; and linking social networks are given greater focus than bonding and bridging networks. Within linking networks, government's links with various national, regional and international organisations and foreign states are prioritised, not households' links with local and national organisations. This study argues that NGOs and local government should strengthen the capacity of local households to contribute effectively to disaster resilience and recovery. This can be accomplished by placing more emphasis on disaster risk reduction programs rather than simply relief works, fostering alternative income options, providing more robust housing, and rebuilding trust through fair distribution of recovery support to build disaster-resilient communities. Through these measures, disaster-affected households would be able to reduce their dependency on the intervention of external organisations (linking social networks) to recover from a disaster. This study also suggests that disaster policies should be revised to make better use of the potential of local social capital to contribute to disaster resilience and recovery.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Paper 1 : How bonding and bridging networks contribute to disaster resilience and recovery on the Bangladeshi coast -- Chapter 3. Paper 2 : How households' assets enable and constrain their contributions to disaster resilience and recovery through bonding and bridging networks in the Bangladesh coast -- Chapter 4. Paper 3 : How do links between households and NGOs promote disaster resilience and recovery? - A case study of linking social networks on the Bangladeshi coast -- Chapter 5. Paper 4 : How local governments support households to recover from cyclones in coastal Bangladesh : an investigation of local social capital -- Chapter 6. Paper 5 : Social networks and paradoxes in government disaster policies : how are social networks articulated in the disaster management policies of Bangladesh? -- Chapter 7. Discussion -- Chapter 8. Conclusion.


Bibliography: pages 245-270 Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Geography and Planning

Department, Centre or School

Department of Geography and Planning

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Greg Walkerden

Additional Supervisor 1

Marco Amati


Copyright Md. Rabiul Islam 2015. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (xxviii 305 pages) colour illustrations, colour maps

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