Facing climate change challenges

Rahman Jahangir | Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Bangladeshis now feel the pinch of climate change although they are in no way to blame for it. Every year just before onset of winter, they used to enjoy soothing sun heat, but not this year. Although there is cool breeze as the day breaks, people start sweating as hours go by. And cool air returns when the night falls. 
A report said, climate change is making its impact felt in the Barisal region, with rainfall and temperatures rising abnormally in summer and chilly weather declining in winter. The changing weather pattern has badly affected agricultural production in Barisal region as a result, with the drought conditions deteriorating. As a result of the change in climate conditions, the cultivation of chillies, 'mug', a kind of pulse, and vegetables has primarily been affected. It is being treated as a dangerous trend that temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius have been recorded in southern region in October in the last two years.  Climate change in the region has not only affected agricultural production, but has also generated cyclones like Sidr, Reshmi and Aila, experts added.
That the government is alive to the needs of more cyclone and flood centres in the country was amply evident from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's inauguration of 100 cyclone shelter centres and 53 flood shelter centres the other day. Such shelters are badly needed because the country is disaster-prone due to its geographical location and is confronting risks of natural calamities like flood, drought, cyclone, tornado, river erosion.  Mentioning that her government's aim is to save the people from any calamity, Sheikh Hasina said the government has been implementing various programmes to achieve the goal.
Bangladesh's coastal belt is vulnerable to cyclone for shallow waters in the North Bay of Bengal along the south-eastern edge of the country. Besides, northward convergence of the Bay and high astronomical tide and presence of a large number of rivers/inlets and islands and low topographies make the coastal area vulnerable. It is time for constructing more cyclone shelters at proper sites in the coastal areas as the number of existing cyclone centres is too little to handle any emergency situation.
There must be cross dams also in the coastal belt to protect the tidal surge, as the surge accompanied with the cyclone is the major cause for loss of life. Construction of cross dams is not possible in distant islands and chars. So, it is important to motivate people to build their homesteads on at least 20-feet high  ground and make intense afforestation in the coastal belt. According to experts, the Noakhali-Chittagong coast is most vulnerable for the landfall of cyclones where 33 cyclones, out of 82, made landfalls in 1582-1997. The second vulnerable zone was the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar coast. The landfall of tropical cyclones occurs at various parts of the coast in October and May.
Experts have suggested building of each human shelter at every half kilometre in different coastal areas so that people there can rush immediately to the shelter following announcement of any danger signal. The government should also build livestock shelters beside every human shelter.
What is also needed is extensive mass awareness campaign along the coastal belt so that the coastal people can understand the significance of danger signals and take shelters to avoid death. The government should rebuild schools and madrasas in coastal areas as educational institutions-cum-cyclone centres. It should also form a high-powered committee comprising top officials and local people to tackle any natural disaster.
It is also time for the authorities to build a green belt in the entire coastal area by planting coconut and different other trees for protecting people of the zone from the adverse impacts of cyclone, upsurge and other natural calamities. There is no alternative to preserving 25 per cent forests in a country for maintaining its ecological balance.
[email protected]