TIB: Irregularities in relief distribution marring government image
Mahadi Al Hasnat

Though Bangladesh has improved significantly in disaster management, lack of consistency in post-disaster activities have marred the achievements of the country.

Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, came up with the observation on Wednesday while releasing a TIB report on Cyclone Roanu at a press conference in its office in Dhaka.

Iftekharuzzaman said the inconsistency in relief distribution and lack of transparency have been impeding the triumph of the country in disaster management.

“Over the past few years, Bangladesh has shown significant progress in tackling a number of natural disasters with effective initiatives but irregularities, mismanagement and partisan behaviour have been found in governmental initiatives following Cyclone Roanu,” he added.

The TIB study titled “Cyclone Roanu: Challenge and Way Forward of Good Governance in Disaster Management” was conducted on five districts – Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Lakshmipur, Bhola and Barguna – of the 15 that were affected by Roanu.

The districts were selected on the basis of number of deaths, damage to homes and risk of climate change.

On May 21 last year, Cyclone Roanu killed 27 people and destroyed many homes, infrastructure and field corps in some 15 coastal districts.

The study pointed out that the lack of risk identification and initiatives, mass consciousness and publicity of cyclone warning are some of the major challenges for good governance in pre-cyclone activities in addition to the mismanagement of shelters.

Major challenges in post-cyclone activities are: lack of justness when distributing relief and materials to rebuild damaged homes, lack of efficiency and transparency in determining damage and emergency relief, corruption and lack of ethics in relief distribution, the study says.   

Political influence plays a significant role in allocation and distribution of relief in affected areas by local government institutions while irregularities and corruption are also major challenges in implementing the government’s initiatives, according to the study.

In most cases, political consideration and nepotism are key factors in listing victims and selecting the beneficiaries, it says.

Some 3,751 cyclone shelters exist in coastal areas of Bangladesh but the demand is for 5,000 shelters. In six of the affected unions, shelters have become unusable due to irregularities and corruption.

According to TIB officials, most of these cyclone shelters were built with low quality materials, causing them to deteriorate quickly.

In most cases, 70% of the total allotted relief was spent for reconstruction of damaged areas while the rest 30% was distributed among different levels of authorities concerned.

The study also found that a shelter under an affected union was built in an inappropriate area on influence of local politicians, therefore it was never beneficial to cyclone-affected people.

The study also stated that due to political considerations, affected families in Bhola were allotted Tk2,335 per family which is around six times more than what was given to affected families in Chittagong, who received Tk401 each.

Some 1,200 bundles of tin sheets were allotted to reconstruct 2,000 homes in Chittagong while 1,000 bundles were allotted for 1,500 damaged homes in Bhola, the study said. 

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