Despite the country's success in reducing loss of lives due to disasters over the decades, the economic losses caused by calamities remain the major threat to sustainable development. A key reason for this situation is limited, uncoordinated recovery efforts, without a post-disaster recovery planning framework or strategy.
At a time when Bangladesh is going to observe the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR) 2020 on October 13, the Covid-19 pandemic, as the UN Secretary-General noted, has brought renewed attention to the importance of strengthening disaster risk reduction (DRR). "To eradicate poverty and reduce the impacts of climate change, we must place the public good above all other considerations," Mr. Antonio Guterres stated as he emphasised "strengthening disaster risk governance to build a safer and more resilient world".This year, the theme of IDDR is Disaster Risk Governance.
The correlation between disaster and development is well acknowledged and much considered in development planning. Global experience shows investment in DRR contributes towards sustainability of development interventions.
In fact, human development and disaster risk reduction are interlinked. Poorly managed economic growth and less attention to DRR cannot ensure sustainability of development interventions. Thus, it's important to notice whether development interventions are creating new risks and whether risks are scanned during development planning.
Mainstreaming of DRR is one of the best approaches to disaster risk governance. Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation should be mainstreamed so that these concepts are embedded into development practices and agendas and that they become underlying principles of sustainable development.
Disaster risk governance means acting on science and evidence and requires political commitment at the highest level to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. DRR has strong linkages in SDG SDG-1 (No Poverty), SDG-11 (SustainableCities and Communities) and SDG-13 (Climate Action).
Bangladesh has been widely appreciated for its disaster management success. The government has created an enabling environment for working together towards a resilient Bangladesh.
The Disaster Management Act, 2012, the Disaster Management Policy 2015, the Standing Orders on Disaster (SoD) and the National Plan for Disaster Management (NPDM) are the key initiatives for improving disaster risk governance. The National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) is headed by the prime minister. At the lowest tier of the local government, the Union Parishad chairman is leading the Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMC). In the revised Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) 2019, ward-level committees are introduced in the city corporation areas.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) has set a good example of emergency response during the recent cyclone Amphan and facing the pandemic challenges, thanks to its effective governance structure and sincere work with community engagement.
The National Resilience Programme (NRP), being implemented by the Ministry with technical partnership of the UNDP, the UN Women and the UNOPS and funded by the SIDA and the UK, is contributing to risk informed development that also focuses on inclusiveness and gender responsiveness.
Institutionalisation of Disaster Impact Assessment (DIA) tool and guideline in planning process is one of the key agendas of this project. It is expected to be helpful for screening disaster and climate risks in planning process of development projects and also in consideration of disaster risk mitigation.
NRP has shown its success in integrating three issues -Risk Informed Development, Disaster Risk Management and Gender Equality - as criteria for selection of projects under the government's Annual Development Programme (ADP). The NRP has initiated establishment of Digital Risk Information Platform (DRIP) at the Planning Commission for facilitating access to risk information, which would be supportive of risk informed development.
The NRP Programming Division Part Project is in the process of signing memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) for introducing Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in the industrial units of economic zones.
BCP is not a common practice among the business community in Bangladesh but the recent Covid-19 experience shows the need for BCP in order to overcome the impact of unexpected events including the disasters and pandemic issues. The success of BCP piloting will hopefully be a milestone in the country's disaster risk governance.
The NRP emphasises resilience in both private and public sector investment. The Programming Division Part of NRP in close collaboration with Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) recently conducted a study on 'Supply Chain Resilience' in the RMG sector. The study will identify new areas of actions by the authorities concerned to minimise the supply chain disruptions due to disaster events.
However, disaster recovery in Bangladesh is always handled in a scattered manner with inadequate attention, absence of inclusive plan, absence of proper failure analysis, ignoring geo-physical dynamic process and climatic influence on disaster. Segmented sectoral recovery efforts without well-coordinated approach cause huge losses and damage every year due to recurrent disasters. Having a comprehensive strategy and action plan for recovery can be a good step towards better disaster risk governance in Bangladesh.
In this context, the UNDP Bangladesh, in association with the NRP, is planning to extend support to the government to have a national-level recovery strategy and action plan and institutional arrangement for its implementation.
It's important that recovery issues are integrated into national policy and guidelines related to DRR. Recovery plans and efforts need to be aligned with other long-term development agendas. Recovery Plan for Cyclone Amphan and 2020 floods can be a good example for disaster risk governance.
Improving governance is a continuous process and governance must address the community demand and emerging needs of changing circumstances and socio-economic realities. It's expected that the government will continue its efforts to address these issues in disaster management for sustainable development and risk governance.
SM Morshed is Project Manager for National Resilience Programme (NRP), Programming Division Part, at the Bangladesh Planning Commission.