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OP-ED: Financially including those hurt by flooding

  • Published at 06:45 pm August 25th, 2020
Floods Bangladesh
We must focus on human development aspects BIGSTOCK

We need to transform our consumption and production processes

Climate change is now recognized as a great issue for agriculture in the coastal region of Bangladesh. The major impact of climate change in this region is increasing salinity. 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 the climate because temperature, solar radiation, and precipitation are the main drivers of crop growth.

Climate change, agriculture, and food security

The coastal region of Bangladesh covers about 20% of the country and the coastal areas cover 30% of cultivable lands. Ayers and Haq (2008) stated that the Bangladesh coastal area may be the front line of climate change impact and response in South Asian countries.

A quarter of the population of Bangladesh lives in the coastal area and about 80% depend on agriculture activities. Bangladesh could lose 15% of its land and up to 25 million of people could be refugees with a one-meter sea level rise. This condition may lead to a decline in the country’s GDP from 57% to 27% through decreasing crop production.

Geographical information systems in disaster-prone areas

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified five obstacles to economic development this year: Income inequality, climate change, increasing polarization of societies, cyber-attacks, and increasing elderly populations. These are either the underlying risk factors or the result of disasters.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will need the collaborative efforts of government organizations, NGOs, and the private sector. Nearly 30% of our people are living in urban areas, and this is rising rapidly. Disaster risk reduction is considered a public sector responsibility, overlooking the role of the private sector. Motivating the private sector to develop a self-regulation culture will be difficult.

At least 265 million people have been internally displaced by disasters since the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) began capturing this data in 2008 -- that’s 24 million people per year on aver-age. The figure is 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, these figures were 11 million 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 more significant role in reducing vulnerability. Development gains mean capacity development and improved resilience of the society and economy.Therefore, development means risk reduced through vulnerability reduction and capacity enhancement.

Investing in disaster risk reduction

One of our key sustainable development goals is reducing poverty. Disaster is one of the major challenges to reducing poverty in a sustainable manner. Poverty degrades the environment and magnifies the consequences of disasters.

Disasters also compel people to live in poverty through depletion of their assets 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.

Poor people lose their land in the national economic and social life and also lose their traditional social sup-port system. It is time to reinterpret the development process and risk reduction understanding.

We should transform our consumption and production process. Rethinking water, environment, ecology, waste management, natural resource use, energy use, infrastructure building, agricultural practices, and urbanization is also urgently required. These are not directly connected with the magnitudes of earthquakes, floods, 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. 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.

Financial institution-supported outcomes to reduce poverty include: Building 320 solar irrigation pumps benefiting 8,000 farmers; supporting 17,500-hectare block plantations, and 2,000km strip plantations from flooding and saline intrusion; providing basic adaptive services for 40,000 families; offering training on alternative livelihoods for 6,000 poor households in 200 communities; constructing 224 new cyclone shelters and repairing 387km of embankments; providing 3.95 million remote households and rural shops with solar home systems, with increased access to electricity; installing seven mini-grids to provide continuous electricity to 2,000 rural businesses and shops; distributing clean, energy-effcient cook stoves to 750,000 rural women.

Shishir Reza is an environmental analyst and Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association. Matiur Rahman is a research consultant, Human Development Research Centre.

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