Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change in the world, as well as being one of the most disaster prone. Bangladesh is a very low-lying country with a flat topography, this coupled with its population density and socio-economic status mean that when disasters strike they can cause large scale damage.
Over 80% of the population is exposed to floods, earthquakes and droughts, and over 70% are vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladesh typically experiences a severe tropical cyclone every three years and each year around 25% of land mass is flooded, 60% of land mass is flooded around every five years.
Bangladesh experienced devastating cyclones in 1970 and 1991, which killed over 500,000 and over 138,000 respectively. There was also significant economic damage with cyclones costing $86.4 million and $1.7 billion. Following these, major efforts were made in reducing disaster vulnerability and Bangladesh is today considered a world leader in coastal resilience.
However, Bangladesh’s vulnerability to disasters, particularly in coastal areas, is on the rise due to climate change. The capital of Dhaka is one of the most at-risk cities in the world.
Disasters are proven to have the greatest effect on poor and vulnerable communities with disaster damage hindering development progress. Disaster risk management is central to poverty reduction and illumination in Bangladesh and the integration of risk management and development plans are critical.
Bangladesh has a number of policies and plans in place to improve its resilience to disasters and climate threats.
For example, its Coastal Embankment Improvement Project has been running since 2013 and has used $400 million to mitigate the impacts of cyclones and flooding and improve emergency responses in coastal regions. The project also supports rehabilitation and upgrading protection plans for cyclones and storm surges.
Similarly, Bangladesh’s Urban Resilience Project has been working since 2015 to strengthen the capacity of the Government and city-level agencies to respond to emergencies and reduce vulnerability of future building construction to disasters.
Bangladesh has been working closely with the World Bank since 2016 to strengthen its weather, water and climate information services to disseminate more reliable information. The $113 million project includes the forecasting of weather patterns and extreme events, developing information services for farmers and enhancing access of vulnerable communities to early warning systems.
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Image credit: World Bank