News‎ > ‎

Columbia undergraduate trip to Bangladesh

posted May 28, 2018, 4:27 PM by Michael Steckler   [ updated May 28, 2018, 4:31 PM ]
For the Spring 2015 semester, M. Steckler again taught a course on hazards in Bangladesh in the Columbia University undergraduate Sustainable Development program, SDEV 3550, Bangladesh: Life on a Tectonically-Active Delta.  The class included 10 undergraduate students.  The TA was a graduate student in Southeast Asian Studies with previous experience in Bangladesh.  The highlight of the course was an 11 day trip to Bangladesh during Spring Break.  However, due to the ongoing political violence, it was not possible to travel between cities safely at the time.  To cope with the situation, the entire trip, outside of Dhaka, was conducted by boat.  We leased the M/V Kokilmoni, a boat we have previously used for our research.  The boat met us at Dhaka and we traveled through the river system to SW Bangladesh.  In the Southwest, we visited Bhanderkote and the compaction meter we installed there; Polder 32 recovering from the devastation of being flooded for 3 years by Cyclone Aila; Hiron Point, Katka, Kachikhali, and Bird Island in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest; and Moddya Barisal. As before, we were accompanied by 8 Dhaka University students and 2 professors for the entire trip.  The inclusion of a similar size contingent of Bangladeshi tremendously enhanced the experience. In the villages the students either interviewed farmers for their land use change project or measured As levels in drinking water wells, in addition to learning about the region and contrasts between villages with and without access to fresh water.  Having sufficient Bangla speakers to translate was a key factor in these activities. While our time on the ground was sometimes limited by the limited pace of boat travel and need to consider the timing of the tides, it was offset by the greater opportunities for seeing the country and conversation on the boat.