Bangladesh is an adaptation capital of the world

The 2019 UN Climate Action Summit was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 23 September 2019. The summit aimed to advance climate action for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the mean global temperature from rising by more than 1.5 degrees above the preindustrial level.

The Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina attended and spoke at the Climate Action Summit. During her presentation, she put emphasis on the adaptation and resilience-building measures in Bangladesh exemplifying one of the most vulnerable countries to the world as an adaptation capital of the world.

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“The impacts of climate change are devastating on the life and livelihood of many people every year. Either it is floods in Bangladesh and India, or Cyclone “Idai” in Southern Africa or Hurricane “Dorian” in the Caribbean disasters have been creating havoc to our society or economy”, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened her speech.

Climate change induces vulnerability, and then vulnerability accelerates the notion and motion of poverty. It enhances the existing vulnerability of poor people, in a word, it makes existing poverty vigorous. The vulnerable populations lose their property as well. To put an example, due to the river erosion, could be resulted from the sea level rise, many people are losing their land close to the river, and they couldn’t support their back and belly losing their productive land. Thus, it makes ‘double vulnerability’ to the poor vulnerable people.

Vulnerability as subjective is very difficult to measure and it depends on different socio-economic contexts and intensity of climate change impacts. There are three dimensions of vulnerability – exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity – and it is argued that sensitivity and adaptive capacity of an affected system by climate change particularly depend on socio-economic conditions of the system like distribution of income, health facilities, social security, etc. People of vulnerable areas suffer from extreme poverty, while vulnerability has often been closely associated with poverty. Thus, we can say that people living in the vulnerable areas of Bangladesh are poor or they are suffering from extreme poverty. These poor people are facing many problems such as housing, food problem, clothe problem, employment problem, etc.

“There is around 160 million population in 147 square km land of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Bangladesh is going to be a sufferer of global climate change” Sheikh Hasina noted.

Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. According to the Climate Risk Index (2018), Bangladesh is in sixth position having experienced 187 climate-related extreme weather events (hereafter “EWEs”) between 1997 and 2016. From 1995 to 2014, there were at least 22,500 deaths and around 130 million being affected by disasters in Bangladesh, according to the report published by CRED in 2017. These EWEs such as flooding, cyclones, heavy rainfall, riverbank erosion, and drought are occurring frequently.

“Though the frequency of an extreme climatic event is increasing in BD, the casualties are reduced to almost zero from hundreds of thousands a few years back. This is only due to the efficient and early warning system”, she remarked.

Well, the number of deaths from the EWEs in Bangladesh showed a dramatic decline from 1990 to 2017. The number of deaths reported was higher during the 1990s. The higher reported deaths could be attributed to the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh, which caused many deaths. However, the number of deaths dropped drastically from the period of 1992-2011. From this period, this number shows a gradual decline, which indicates, best possible, the better adaptive capacities of Bangladesh. On top of that, Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change and resulted in disasters due to its geographical form. Given with the anticipated risks and vulnerabilities from climate change and associated disasters, the adaptive capacities of Bangladesh will be questionable in the coming decades.

Bangladesh has a dedicated cyclone preparedness mechanism, called Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), which works to spread cyclone early warning messages to all the people living in the 710 km long coastal region of the country.

“We have adaptation and resilience-building measures. For example, an 82 years Delta Plan 2100 to deal with issues and challenges of climate change, natural disasters, and water management. We have built 4291 cyclone shelters and 523 flood shelters in the coastal areas and other flood-affected areas to give shelters during disasters. We evacuate people and put them in the cyclone shelters. And other times, we use those cyclone shelters as a school, health care, office, or other purposes. Some 56000 volunteers are available to warn and facilitate preparation during cyclones and other natural disasters in BD” the Prime Minister noted.

“I am therefore delighted with the launch of Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP). It is an ambitious new initiative created by the United Kingdom, Finland and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society. The REAP aims to make 1 billion people around the world safer from disasters by 2025 by bringing the humanitarian, development, and climate communities together in their action. We are always ready to share our experience. Bangladesh has shown how a strong early warning system and coordinated approach in disaster management can make a big difference. So, we join this initiative to share our experiences with the other vulnerable countries as well as to learn from others in mitigating risk of future hazards. Let’s work together for a safe world for our future generation”, Sheikh Hasina said.

Regarding the launch of REAP, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs remarks, “The launch of the Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership is a timely endeavor that can and must build support to accelerate our progress on early and anticipatory action. Climate change is moving faster than we are. It is already causing more frequent, prolonged and intense extreme weather events around the world. And it is the poorest, most vulnerable and most exposed who suffer the worst.”

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Khandaker Jafor Ahmed is a Bangladeshi doctoral student in the Department of Geography, Environment and Population at the University of Adelaide (UoA), Australia. Jafor's research interest falls within the broader field of population and environment, with a special focus on human fertility. Given the academic qualification (Bachelor and Master's degree in Sociology) and research experience (as a Research Associate in the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research at BRAC University, Bangladesh), his research seeks to explain the social impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
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