Sunday, January 20, 2019 | ePaper

Coastal safety in disaster

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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
Due to its geographic position, Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries on earth. Bangladesh suffers from frequent natural hazards - including tropical cyclones and storm surges, river and coastal flooding, landslides and droughts. The frequency and severity of these natural hazards - combined with the socio-economic situation of Bangladesh leads to loss of life, homes and lands, damage to infrastructure and economic assets and adversely impacts on the life and livelihoods of people across the country. The displaced persons need shelter, relocation and many other rehabilitation trajectories. As has been reported by a report covering shelter, housing and property and green fund: Bangladesh's vulnerability to natural hazards also leads to climate displacement - the forced displacement of individuals and communities from their homes and lands. This is as a result of both "sudden onset events" such as floods, cyclones and river bank erosion as well as "slow onset processes" such as coastal erosion, seal-level rise, salt water intrusion, changing rainfall pattern and drought. The primary causes of climate displacement in Bangladesh are tidal height increases in the coastal areas (leading to tidal flooding) and riverbank erosion in the mainland areas. The key secondary causes of displacement are tropical cyclones and storm surges in the coastal regions and river flooding in the mainland. The primary sites of displacement have been in the coastal
regions and in the river delta regions in the mainland.
"Bangladesh experienced over 200 natural disasters since 1980, leaving a total death toll of approximately 200,000 people and causing economic loss worth nearly $17 billion. Every year, we incurred 1.8 percent of GDP loss due to natural disaster. It is estimated that 14 percent of our GDP is exposed to disasters. After the devastating cyclone of 1991, the concept of response (acting after the occurrence) has been changed by the new concept of total disaster management (which includes response, recovery, rehabilitation and prevention, mitigation and preparedness). This is the genesis of observing National Disaster Preparedness Day. After the 1998 floods, the momentum increased significantly towards risk reduction. Such change or shifts are well ahead of many global initiatives."
'In the area of disaster management, Bangladesh is well ahead of many countries. This is why the country is considered a role model in managing natural disasters. The strength and attributes we have among others include community resilience, volunteerism, the early warning system; community based decision-making process, government commitment, a vibrant NGO sector and an appreciable legal and institutional framework.
These need to be strengthened further. Implementation of various provisions of legal and policy directives needs to be evaluated and further commitment is needed in this regard. Many provisions of the DM Act, especially the Disaster Management Fund, Volunteer Platform, Research and Training Institute, are to be put in place as priority activities. Educational and research organisations should be supported continuously. Bangladesh, as an active participating country, will once again prove to be the managing disaster risk reduction through better preparedness at all levels and across all sectors, battling every type of disaster'.
In Bangladesh the victims have had nightmarish experiences about super cyclones Aila, Sidre and Mohasen. Many became displaced meaning they lost all means of livelihood they developed overtime in their original homes. Now there is climate change fund to rehabilitate them as displaced persons.
The whole gamut of rehabilitation intervention includes the dimensions like mitigation and adaptation.  Climate change involves complex interactions between climatic, environmental, economic, political, institutional, social, and technological processes. It cannot be addressed or comprehended in isolation of broader societal goals (such as equity or sustainable development), or other existing or probable future sources of stress.
Recent earth summit approved green fund to enable the victims to help themselves. Thing is that green fund must be managed in a befitting manner keeping in mind the elements of good enough governance.
Local self-government at the grassroots must have leverage over fund management. The institution like Union Parishad in coastal belt must work in close co-operation with NGO and other parastatal agencies. Union Parishad must create ward based village organization under social development programme so the programmes under Green Fund are managed properly without any malfeasance. The aspect of handling fund must be brought under parliamentary oversight. The exogenous forces at the helm in controlling green fund must see to it that funds are efficiently administered reaching out the target beneficiaries.
The 2018 World Bank reports said, Due to the effects of climate change, an increase in the frequency and severity of cyclones and other natural disasters is likely, making it essential for Bangladesh to adapt to increased uncertainty and be prepared to ride out even the worst storms.
The Multipurpose Disaster Shelter Project (MDSP) will benefit nearly 14 million coastal people who are more vulnerable to natural disasters. Bangladesh is the world's most vulnerable countries to climate change and also one of the most disaster prone countries in the world.Bangladesh's low-lying and climatic features, combined with its population density and economic environment, make it highly susceptible to many natural hazards, including floods, droughts, cyclones and earthquakes.More than 80 percent of the population are potentially exposed to floods, earthquakes and droughts and more than 70 percent to cyclones.
On average, the country experiences a severe tropical cyclone every three years, and about 25 percent of the land mass is inundated with floodwaters per year. Severe flooding, occurring every 4-5 years, covers 60 percent of the landmass. Following the devastating cyclones of 1970 and 1991, Bangladesh has made significant efforts to reduce its disaster vulnerability and is considered today a global leader in coastal resilience due to its significant long-term investments in protecting lives.
Despite these efforts, the vulnerability of the coastal population is on the rise due to climate change. Its capital, Dhaka, is among the most at risk cities in the world with assets extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and with its high population density and rapid urbanization intensifying this risk. The hazard risk to Dhaka and Bangladesh's urban areas is not yet well understood and yet to be addressed.
Since disasters afflict the poor and vulnerable of the coastal areas the most, damage caused by disasters can substantially roll back development progress. 'Disaster Risk Management (DRM) is therefore central to poverty reduction and development efforts. Integrating DRM into development planning and investments in Bangladesh could better protect people and assets from rising disasters impacts.
The World Bank assists client countries in DRM programs through effective disaster risk reduction and post-disaster response systems to reduce existing risks, avoid new risks, and respond better to disasters. In this context, the South Asia DRM team has supported the government of Bangladesh through a combination of technical assistance, investment lending, capacity building and instructional strengthening.'

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