Climate change itself is said to be one of the most treacherous and damaging phenomena in the 21st century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states: “Taken as a whole the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.” The implications of such are rather formidable when coupled with other significantly contributing factors such as geo-physical location. Bangladesh, a country predicted to be one of the most impacted countries by climate change has just such a geographical trait, being the delta of three major riverine systems and having its unique funnel-shaped bay.
Over the years, loss of human lives has been significantly reduced from 138,000 deaths in the 1991 cyclone to approximately 10,000 during Cyclone Sidr in 2007. However, the mortality, economic as well as non- economic loss and damages are still shocking. Livelihood options are adversely affected by climate induced hazards. Crop cultivation especially in the coastal region, fishing in rivers, canals, and ponds, social forestry, cattle, and poultry farms are destroyed during climatic hazards. The direct exposure of Bangladesh to these devastating occurrences and the repercussions that reverberate throughout the country are further augmented by additional factors that include poverty, education, lack of awareness on climate risks, and excessive population growth.
These multidimensional implications of climate change could perhaps have been coped with if it were not for the repeated and increasingly intensifying nature of the disasters. By the time families, farmers, communities, businesses, and governments have resurfaced from the depths of the loss from the previous disaster, another one strikes with similar, if not even greater force. Examples of the 1991, 2007, 2009 cyclones and the 1988, 1998, 2004, and 2007 floods can be cited here. The resilience and security especially in terms of food, water and sanitation they built within the intervals are damaged again if not completely washed away.
There needs to be a comprehensive approach and support given to affected communities if these worsening figures are to be reduced and resilience of people is to be increased to make it sustainable. Those of us working to tackle climate change have so far been following an “AdMit” (Adaptation and Mitigation) approach. Affected people and communities are being provided with alternative livelihoods, access to water and renewable energy sources. What is not being provided though, is proper compensation for the loss and damage, both collateral and otherwise, that these people are bearing due to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. People are receiving alternative livelihoods such as poultry and crab farming and solar power systems, solar lamps and improved cook stoves. However, gaps remain such as: What is going to compensate the loss of hundreds of children who have not been able to go to school for a year in the villages of North Bedkashi Union in the Koira Upazila of Khulna after Cyclone Aila? Who is going to pay the sum total of the farmer’s house that got washed away for the second time in five years on the banks of the Jamuna river?
The approach that needs to come in is CAdMit (Compensation, Adaption and Mitigation). Climate Change is aggravated mostly because of the centuries of greenhouse gases emitted by industrial countries. These economies have to step up and bear the brunt of the cost being inflicted on poor rural communities of the vulnerable coastal districts of developing countries. Without compensation, in proper and adequate forms, these communities will keep falling into the vicious cycles of increasing disasters and their impacts due to climate change. A global level “compensation fund” could be created for sustainable solutions to the poorest of the poor communities along with all adaptation and mitigations efforts. Priority of access may be given to the Least Developed Countries and most vulnerable countries like Bangladesh.