Development A Hoax If People Are In Climate Risk
Shishir Reza :
Climate vulnerability is a major concern for the coastal areas of Bangladesh. The coastal region here covers 29,000 sq. km or about 20% area of the country and the coastal areas cover 30% of the cultivable lands of Bangladesh. The coastal belt of Bangladesh is a low lying area, so it is vulnerable to monsoon flooding and storm surges. The belt has been delineated based on three criteria, namely the limits of tidal fluctuation, salinity intrusion and cyclonic risk.
Climate change is now recognized as a great issue for agriculture in coastal region of Bangladesh. The major impact of climate change in this region is salinity increasing. Other impacts are flood, drought, low rainfall, very low and high temperature, cyclone frequently occurs. The environmental impacts of salinity are not well recognized and it is only in the last decade that we have become aware of its significance. Salinity is destroying the important part of coastal landscapes. It damages the native species, ecological communities and agricultural lands. The agriculture sector depends highly on climate because of temperature, solar radiation and precipitation that are the main drivers of crop growth.
World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified five obstacles to economic development this year. These are income inequality, climate change, increasing polarization of societies, cyber-attacks and increase of the elderly population. These are either the underlying risk factors or are the result of disasters. Nearly thirty percent of our people are living in urban areas, and this is rising rapidly. Disaster risk reduction is considered as a public sector responsibility, overlooking the role of the private sector. It will be the most difficult part to motivate the private sector to develop a self-regulation culture. Ensuring people's participation at all levels in a meaningful way is a complex task. The dynamics of underlying factors are very complex to ensure the participation in the form of a decentralized system.
At least 265 million people have been internally displaced by disaster since the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) began capturing this form of data in 2008 - that's 24 million people per year on average. The figure is, in fact, larger given that we have only been able to quantify drought-induced displacement since 2017. In the first half of 2019, the IDMC reports, nearly 4 million people worldwide were uprooted by conflict and 7 million by disasters. For the whole of 2018, the figures were 11 and 17 million respectively. Cyclone Fani alone drove almost 3.5 million people from their homes in India and Bangladesh in May of this year.
Development has a wider and significant role in reducing vulnerability. The development process must examine the process - whether it is generating vulnerability or not. It is agreed that development gains mean that vulnerability is reduced. On the other hand, development gains mean capacity development and improved resilience of the society and economy. Therefore, development means risk reduced through vulnerability reduction and capacity enhancement. This reduction initiative to priorities hazard considers the sensitivity of the sector, like food production and exposure to threats like cyclone, salinity and earthquake.
One of the key sustainable development goals for us is to reduce poverty. Disaster is one of the major challenges to reducing poverty in a sustainable manner. Poverty degrades environment and degraded environment or ecology magnifies the consequences of disasters. Disasters also compel people to live in poverty through depletion of their assets (land erosion, death of livestock and birds, reduction in production) and loss of employment. There is also the problem of decreased income due to lack of diversified skill, market, and opportunity. This situation leads them to increased debts, with a high rate of interest from the formal and informal sectors. Ultimately they opt for migration to urban areas.
Thus poor people lose their land in the national economic and social life and also lose their traditional social support system. It is always the extreme poor populations everywhere that are the most vulnerable. It is time to reinterpret the development process and risk reduction understanding. We should transform our consumption and production process. Rethinking about water, environment, ecology, waste management, natural resource use, energy use, infrastructure building, agricultural practices and urbanization is also urgently required. Otherwise, our development may be at risk from even moderate shocks. These are not directly connected with the magnitude of an earthquake or flood or fault lines, but rather with inequality, non-inclusive growth and power structures.
The consequences of disasters are very high in low human development countries. That is why low human development and disaster consequences are interlinked. To make progress in sustained development, we must focus on human development aspects. Present discourse on disaster management identifies disaster as failed development. Failed development means that the development process does not incorporate present and future risk. Risk, if disregarded in the development process, will not be mitigated. Proper development protects people from all kinds of threats. Disaster consequences will be extensive and wide due to unplanned and short-sighted considerations.
(Mr. Reza is an Environmental Analyst and Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association).