Urban climate resilience: how does land tenure affect adaptation to climate change in Dhaka?

Climate experts suggest that a resilient community can better withstand disturbances, self-organise and learn and adapt to change when required.

Low-income people show significant capacity to develop strategies to improve their resilience to climate change. However, the impact that their lack of formal tenure rights has on these strategies is greatly debated. It has been suggested that lack of formal land tenure rights can affect incentives for low-income people to invest scarce resources in risk reduction, but it is not clear how. Therefore, this study uses a mixed method approach to examine how land tenure influences climate change impacts and in turn how land tenure can influence strategies for enhancing resilience to climate change in Dhaka.

This project aims to investigate the influence of land tenure on local resilience to climate change. It addresses six research objectives.

  1. To critically engage the literature on stress, risk and notions of complexity to situate the empirical research.
  2. To investigate how processes of climate are understood and mediated by informal settlement residents in Dhaka.  
  3. To assess impacts of climate change on land tenure arrangements in informal settlements in Dhaka.
  4. To critically evaluate responses to climate change, including the role of land tenure security to support resilience of informal settlement residents in Dhaka.  
  5. To assess the role of key actors outside the informal communities in formulating and implementing land policy.
  6. To develop practical strategies for dissemination at the local as well as the political level

This work is being led by Dr Joanne Jordan. It is funded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) with an Environment and Sustainability Research Grant (Grant ESRG 6/15), the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Research in Film Award, and several grants from The University of Manchester, including: Faculty of Humanities Strategic Investment Research Fund and The University of Manchester School of Environment, Education and Development Research and Impact Stimulation Fund.


With the research complete, Dr Joanne Jordan teamed up with the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Dhaka to explore the findings through a ‘Pot Gan’; a traditional folk medium, featuring melody, drama, pictures and dancing. The Pot Gan performances aim to build awareness of how climate change affects the lives of low-income people in Dhaka.

The collaboration between Dr Jordan and the University of Dhaka has resulted in the Pot Gan being developed as part of a Master’s course unit on ‘Theatre for Development’. Pot Gan Performances of ‘The Lived Experience of Climate Change: A Story of One Piece of Land in Dhaka’ have been seen online and in-person by over 7,000 people, including: informal dwellers, policy makers, practitioners, academics, students, and key publics. Live performances have taken place in Dhaka at:

  • The 10th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change, Independent University Bangladesh, Dhaka (25 April 2016)
  • British Council Bangladesh, Dhaka (28 April 2016).
  • Within the informal settlement that provided the insights for the research in Dhaka (29 April 2016)

To bring the stories from the Dhaka informal dwellers to an even larger international and national audience, the Pot Gan performances were filmed to produce a documentary exploring Dr Joanne Jordan’s findings on the ‘everyday’ realities of climate change. The documentary ‘The Lived Experience of Climate Change: A Story of One Piece of Land in Dhaka’ was produced and directed by Green Ink, a Dhaka based new media studio specialising in documentaries.