Climate change is now recognised as a great issue for agriculture in the coastal region of Bangladesh. The major impact of climate change in this region is increasing salinity. Other impacts are flood, drought, low rainfall, very low and high temperature, and frequent cyclones. The environmental impacts of salinity are not well recognised and it is only in the last decade that we have become aware of its significance. Salinity is destroying the coastal landscapes. It damages the native species, ecological communities and agricultural lands. The agriculture sector depends highly on climate because of temperature, solar radiation and precipitation that are the main drivers of crop growth.
CLIMATE CHANGE, AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY: In the coastal areas of Bangladesh climate vulnerability is a major concern. The coastal belt of Bangladesh has been delineated based on three criteria, namely the limits of tidal fluctuation, salinity intrusion and cyclonic risk. The coastal belt is a low lying area, so it is vulnerable to monsoon flooding and storm surges. In Bangladesh, staple food of 90 per cent of the population is rice. In the country, three seasonal rice crop groups dominate the cropping pattern. Aus, Aman and Boro rice are cultivated throughout the year. Aman varieties are broadcast, high yielding variety (HYV) and transplant, varieties of Aus are HYV and local and varieties of Boro are HYV, hybrid and local. About 75 per cent of the total annual cropped area is covered by rice cultivation. Transplant Aman is cultivated all over the country and broadcast Aman is cultivated mostly in the south and south-eastern part of the country. Aus is grown in scattered areas. In the pre-monsoon time, Aus paddy is sown and harvested during the monsoon season. Boro is grown in dry season. Boro paddy is always transplanted and is mainly irrigated.
The coastal region of Bangladesh covers 29,000 sq. km or about 20 per cent area of the country and the coastal areas cover 30 per cent of the cultivable lands. Ayers and Haq (2008) stated that the Bangladesh coastal area may be the front line of climate change impact and response among South Asian Countries. The coastal area plays an important role in increasing the country's GDP. A quarter of the population lives in the coastal area and about 80 per cent people depends on agriculture activities. There is an apprehension that with a 1-meter rise in sea level in coastal areas might lead to loss of 15 per cent of the land rendering up to 25 million of people refugees. This condition may lead to drastic decline in the country's economy as a whole.
GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS IN DISASTER PRONE AREAS: World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified five obstacles to economic development this year. These are income inequality, climate change, increasing polarisation of societies, cyber-attacks and increase of the elderly population. These are either the underlying risk factors or are the result of disasters. Nearly thirty per cent of our population live in urban areas, and the number is rising rapidly. Disaster risk reduction is considered a public sector responsibility, overlooking the role of the private sector. It will be the most difficult part to motivate the private sector to develop a self-regulation culture. Ensuring people's participation at all levels in a meaningful way is a complex task. The dynamics of underlying factors are very complex to ensure the participation in the form of a decentralised system.
At least 265 million people have been internally displaced by natural disasters globally since the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) began capturing this form of data in 2008 - that's 24 million people per year on average. The figure is, in fact, 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, the figures were 11 and 17 million respectively. Cyclone Fani alone drove almost 3.5 million people from their homes in India and Bangladesh in May that year.
Development has a wider and significant role in reducing vulnerability. The development process must examine the process - whether it is generating vulnerability or not. It is agreed that development gains mean that vulnerability is reduced. On the other hand, development gains mean capacity development and improved resilience of the society and economy. Therefore, development means risk reduced through vulnerability reduction and capacity enhancement. This reduction initiative to priorities hazards considers the sensitivity of the sector, like food production and exposure to threats like cyclone, salinity and earthquake.
INVESTING IN DISASTER RISK REDUCTION TO REDUCE POVERTY: One of the key sustainable development goals for us is to reduce poverty. Disaster is one of the major challenges to reducing poverty in a sustainable manner. Poverty degrades environment and degraded environment or ecology magnifies the consequences of disasters. Disasters also compel people to live in poverty through depletion of their assets (land erosion, death of livestock and birds, reduction in production) 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. Ultimately, they opt for migration to urban areas. Thus poor people lose their land and also lose their traditional social support system. It is always the extreme poor populations everywhere that are the most vulnerable. We should transform our consumption and production process. Rethinking about water, environment, ecology, waste management, natural resource use, energy use, infrastructure building, agricultural practices and urbanisation is also urgently required. Otherwise, our development may be at risk from even moderate shocks. These are not directly connected with the magnitude of an earthquake or flood or fault lines, but rather with inequality and non-inclusive growth. The consequences of disasters are very high in low human development countries. That is why low human development and disaster consequences are interlinked. 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 risks. Risk, if disregarded in the development process, will not be mitigated. Proper development protects people from all kinds of threats. Disaster consequences will be extensive due to unplanned and short-sighted considerations.
Disaster risk reduction is considered as a public sector responsibility, overlooking the role of the private sector. However, financial institutions-supported programmes to reduce poverty include: building 320 solar irrigation pumps benefiting 8,000 farmers; supporting 17,500-hectare block plantations and 2,000-kilometer strip plantations from flooding and saline intrusion; providing basic adaptive services for 40,000 families; Offer trainings on alternative livelihoods for 6,000 poor households in 200 communities; constructing 224 new cyclone shelters and repairing 387 kilometers of embankment; providing 3.95 million remote households and rural shops with solar home systems: installing seven mini-grids to provide continuous electricity to 2,000 rural businesses and shops; distributing clean, energy-efficient cooking stoves to 750,000 rural women.
In conclusion, we can say that a good deal of the works in combating the fallout of climate change will depend on how to manage risks for the present and the future through collaborative efforts of government organisations, NGOs, and the private sector.
Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.
Matiur Rahman is Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre.