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Climate Change and Natural Disaster in Bangladesh : Will it be neglected?

AFIF-UL-MINHAZ
“If you do not think of me and build your sweet home I will destroy it. If you remain indifferent about your life, I will kill you and your dear ones. If you remain uninformed about my nature and trend and you grow crops, I will destroy them cruelly. If you do not integrate me into your planning and programmes, I will destroy all your achievements. I can destroy your year round development gains. I can render your people homeless. I can make rich people destitute and beggar ones. So you know well what type of natural hazard I am and what type of disastrous effect I can do. You may find wellbeing in me but you make it a disaster. It is your failure. I am the very natural disaster you always neglect.” Every year various natural hazards occur in the world and almost all hazards turn into disasters. According to the CRED report, each year more than 600 disasters occur globally and since 1900, more than 9000 natural disasters have occurred around the world, of which about 80% have occurred over the last 30 years. On average during 2000-2006, about 116 countries were hit by disasters each year, but in 2007 it was 133. It is reported that, in 2007, 414 natural disasters occurred worldwide in which 16,847 persons were killed, more than 211 million were affected and caused economic losses worth over US$ 74.9 billion. Of the different regions of the world, Asia has received the hardest hit and is the most affected region by natural disasters. 37% of the year’s reported disasters occurred in Asia, accounted for 90% of all reported victims and 46% of the economic damage. On the other hand, the impacts on humans were concentrated in Asia. On the contrary, Europe is the safest region of the world where natural disasters are relatively rare and their negative impacts are stronger on economy than on human lives. For example, 65 disasters were reported in Europe in 2007, accounted for 27% of the world’s economic damages from natural disasters, but the disasters affected people in that area are only 1% of the world’s victims. In Bangladesh, the number of death, economic loss, and infrastructure damage associated with different disasters is also stunning. Statistics shows the picture in-depth. According to ADRC report since 1901 to 2000, 231 disasters have occurred in Bangladesh in which 1,069,693 people were killed, 956,867 were injured, 36,556,677 become homeless, and total number of 3,46,530,651 affected during the same period. Economic damages to those disasters were US$ 10,431,980. In 1970, more than 3,00,000 people were killed by cyclone. Moreover, floods of 1987, 1988 and 1998 were the most destructive in country’s history in terms of its extent, infrastructure damage, economic loss and threat to lives of people. In recent time, in 2007, 4234 people were killed and 6 million people were displaced or made homeless by cyclone SIDR. But the actual figure in terms of death and economic loss is much more than the statistics we have. The impact of a disaster is making the country’s economy sluggish. The country is losing a good number of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year due to various natural disasters and this is why the country’s GDP growth rate is also fluctuating and making the economy more vulnerable and unpredictable. The government is constructing roads, culverts, bridges and other infrastructures each year but natural hazards washings them out. So, where is your development gain? This is undoubtedly a devastating scenario for the entire development of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is vulnerable to various natural disasters. Climate change has added an extra concern. The country can be the worst victim of the negative consequences of climate change and climate related natural hazards. It is universally acknowledged that the sea level along the Bangladesh coast is rising at about 3 millimeters a year. The sea surface temperature is also in a rising trend. It is defiantly creating a direct threat to the millions of people of the country. We are not responsible for climate change but we are the victims of it. We are going to experience the time line of 2030 and of 2050. We will have to pay its price more in the coming days. The government of Bangladesh and other SAARC countries should have a rigid position to the responsible countries in this regard. Bangladesh is a land of disaster with prevalent poverty situation, which forces many people to live in disaster-prone areas. On the contrary, each year many people are forced to migrate to cities because of natural disasters. The people of Bangladesh lack better alternatives and the capacity to cope with natural hazards. And this is why almost all natural hazards turn into disasters. Losses of life, decline in agriculture production, displacement of human beings, losses of valuable livestock, disruption in communication and livelihood system are the ultimate result of all sorts of disasters occurring in Bangladesh. The damages to infrastructure and property are also immense that hold back year round development progress. Donors and even governments have tendency to spend millions of money as emergency aid but they hardly spend money for pre-disaster ‘vulnerability and risk reduction’. Yet, some effective initiatives, for example, improvement of early warning systems, building well-planned and sufficient flood and cyclone shelters, enforcement of building code and house settlement plan can save thousands of lives and millions of money. Because of early warning and evacuation it was possible to save thousands of peoples’ lives before SIDR struck. Otherwise it could have claimed thousands of lives more. Moreover, the country is not well enough to tackle post-disaster situation. If a giant earthquake hit the country, have we the capacity to deal with the post-disaster situation? If the Tsunami happens again, have we the capacity to evacuate the people early? Do the communities have their own resilience or capability to manage a massive disaster? No one knows how many lives and property we have to sacrifice. Integrating issues of climate change and disaster into all development activities and policies can solve ‘giant problems’ like poverty, migration and can also help to achieve MGDs. Yet, it is somehow ignored and its progress is going at a snail’s pace. What will the present government do to cope with climate change and disaster? Will it be neglected? Will it be excluded from development policy and planning? If so, what negative consequences we will have to face is a matter of time. We have several disastrous histories of disasters but we do not learn from it.

References 1. Guha-Sapir, D. Hargitt D., and Hoyois, P. Thirty Years of Natural Disasters 1974-2003: The Numbers. Brussels: CRED, 2004. 2. Hoyois, P. et al. Annual Disaster Statistical Review: The Numbers and Trends 2007. Brussels: CRED, 2008. 3. Hoyois, P. et al. Annual Disaster Statistical Review: Numbers and Trends 2006. Brussels: CRED, 2007. 5. Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC). Data Book-2006. vol. 2. Kobe: ADRC, 2007.