Thursday, May 28, 2020 | ePaper

Climatic Calamities

And Rising Inequality Among Urban Poor

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Shishir Reza and Matiur Rahman :
[This is the second part of the article]
Urban area is a composite of different subsystems of physical structures and human activities all having links with one another. Intended and unintended human activities taking place within the urban area have profound impacts both within and exterior it. The degradation in the quality of the urban environment is the consequence of economic activities, which may affect the environment, sanitation security and public health either directly or indirectly.
Intensification in the urban population of Bangladesh is more or less centered on the three metropolitan areas of Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna through rural to urban migration which is currently 55% of total migration. Everyday - due mainly to rural-push migration - thousands of people are migrating to the cities from their rural inhabitants and a huge number of them are heading towards the cities either being destitute by landlessness, impoverisation, employment contraction among poor and marginalised, floods, cyclones, river erosion, droughts or being stricken by poverty. Dhaka density stands at an astounding 49,182 per sq. km and Chattogram 16,613 sq. km. UN report, 2016 has mentioned the urban Population Status in Bangladesh: it was 23.8% in 2000; 30.4 % in 2010 and 2016 it is now 34.9%. Day by day it is escalating.         
In general, urban poor lives at slums, squatter and low income settlements. As city life is very expensive to fulfil the basic needs, these poor people are bound to search for a dwelling place at the city slums and those who cannot even afford to live in a slum dwelling are living on streets or pavements, in parks, bus or railway stations or other public infrastructures. They are experiencing with kutcha, jhupri, non-sanitary latrine, unhygienic garbage disposal and impure water supply. No sanitation is safe when covered by flood waters, as fecal matter mixes with flood waters and spread everywhere the flood water goes. Dhaka - which has piped sewage network, 2% only of fecal load is treated.
In reality, human health depends on an adequate supply of potable water. By reducing fresh water supplies, climate change affects sanitation and lowers the efficiency of local sewer systems, leading to amplify concentrations of pathogens in unprocessed water supplies. In addition, climate alteration reduces the water availability for drinking and washing. The unforeseen increase in extreme rainfall events, which is associated with the outbreaks of diarrheal disease - may overwhelm the public water supply system.
The ecology and transmission dynamics of vector borne disease are complex. Climate change impacts models suggest that the leading changes in the potential for disease transmission will occur at the fringes in terms of both latitude and longitude of the malaria risk areas. Vector borne diseases are transmitted by insects - mosquitoes and ticks that are sensitive to temperature, humidity and rainfall. High temperature manipulates the reproduction and survival of the infective agent within the vector, thereby further influencing disease diffusion in areas where the vector is previously present. Numerous diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes (chikungunia, dengue, and yellow fever), sand flies (leishmaniasis) and ticks (Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis) may also be amplified by climate alteration. The poor who are environmentally or agriculturally displaced, live in urban areas have no capacity, education, financial aptitude to fight against climate induced health insecurity.
Climate Financing to Adaptive and Resilient Bangladesh
Climate is not confined to only competing countries or regions. It affects all human beings regardless of race, caste, ethnicity, sex and level of income. It is characterised by increased temperature; alter action in rainfall and seasonal disruption across the globe. It is true that our heartbeat increases just after hearing a word "war". Such a war continues in our nature that is defined as climate war.
Loss of coastal land to the sea in the vulnerable zone is currently predicted to reach up to 5% by 2030, 7% by 2050 and 15% by 2080. Scientists predict that, due to tropical cyclones and salinity intrusion into farming lands in coastal areas, environmental refugees will exceed 20 million in coming future. As a result, their demand for land, water, employment and other public services generate conflict with local residents.
Some foreign and local alliance - world health organisation, intergovernmental panel on climate change, Bangladesh poribesh andolon, Bangladesh environment network, Bangladesh environmental lawyers association believe that climate change cannot be mitigated through discussions. To reduce the climatic impacts, we have to take financial initiatives and share technology for adaptation with increase mass awareness to reduce carbon use.
Concluding Remarks
To conclude, what is critical now is to move away from producing 'paper and reports' towards investing human, materials and financial resources on the issues at the places where the climate change is upsetting for collective and sustainable Bangladesh.

(Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst & Matiur Rahman is a research consultant, Human Development Research Centre, Dhaka)

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