Inching towards doomby Dr Aminul Islam Akanda
INDUSTRIALISATION, urbanisation, etc are reportedly held responsible for global warming and climate change in many publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. With a lower level of fossil fuel-based human intervention, Bangladesh has been warmed up by 0.5°C over the last century, according to a report of the Equity and Justice Working Group. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has produced data-based evidences of extreme temperature, irregular rainfall and abnormal humidity in recent years. The incidence of natural disasters also increased from 6 in 1976 to 10 in 1982 to 12 in 1994 to 14 in 2000, as reported by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been internationally recognised as one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters.
According to disaster statistics by the PreventionWeb, Bangladesh had 234 extreme cases of disasters during 1980-2010 for which a cumulative total of 0.2 million people were killed and 323 million were affected. In the most severe case, 1,548 people were killed per cyclone, which were 183 per flood. The affected people per event of cyclone was 0.5 million, which was 3.5 million for floods also for the severe cases. It says that around 12.9 per cent of the population is in hazard zone for floods, which is 3.1 per cent for cyclone and 1.1 per cent for tsunami. It is also evidenced from the zero growth of population in coastal district Barisal and 0.6 per cent in Khulna compared to the national rate of 1.34 per cent during 2001-2011, largely because of migration during the cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Aila in 2009.
Hydro-morphology in this riverine country, on the other hand, has changed significantly over the last few decades. The Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra system is one of the largest in the world, which has been carrying 1.7 billion tonnes of silts from innumerable tributaries. The southern part of Bangladesh was reported to grow from depositing sediment in the Bay of Bengal since million years past. About 70 kilometres of land accreted inside the bay since 1760s comparing the Rennell’s maps for the Bengal and Bihar Atlas. However, the natural system of land accretion was impeded due to sea-level rise and human interventions on the river system. Meanwhile, the sea level in the Bay of Bengal rose by 0.5 metre during the last century, which caused coastal erosion and will cause larger erosion for another rise of 0.5 metre by 2050 as reported by the EJWG. The World Bank, in this regard, predicted a loss of 17 per cent of country’s land from one-metre rise of sea level, which will make 20 million environmental refugees by the end of this century.
In addition to this, inadequate upstream flow for dams, barrages, embankments, etc on river system stimulates deposition of silt and lowers its water conveyance capacity, which has caused the drying of rivers up during dry season and larger riverbank erosion in rainy season. Out of total 2,400 kilometres riverbank, every year about 1,200 kilometres was actively eroded and more than 500 kilometres faced severe problems related to erosion. A study showed about 0.73 million people were displaced for riverbank erosion during 1981-1993 at an annual rate of 63,722. Moreover, many fishermen already migrated to cities for drying the rivers up. Such migration because of adverse circumstances together with natural rate of migration has elevated the urban area towards a higher population pressure.
Meanwhile, the fossil fuels-based industrialisation, urbanisation and commercialisation cost a lot for environment that expanded at the expense of green lands, air and water bodies. Though the CO2 emission is negligible in Bangladesh at the rate of 0.3 tonne per capita per year, it is complemented with even 17.6 units a year in the US. In addition, densely-populated urban areas face heat related problems from blocking wind for the multi-storied buildings. Without the cooling process, their indoor temperatures in Dhaka city sometimes rose by about 4°C over the outdoor in a hot day, as mentioned in an article of Dr AKMN Nabi of Dhaka University. The industrialisation being limited has, however, caused environmental pollution due to unplanned waste management. Consequently, people are facing problem to survive from very high intensity of lung and cardiovascular diseases. Stroke and cardiovascular diseases from heat wave was reported to cause an average death of 121 people during the first half of 2000s. Even with a non-suitable living environment, the in-migration rate to urban areas is 4.5 per cent, which is 6.0 per cent for the capital Dhaka.
Many people refugees migrated to the cities and got shelter mostly in slum areas. The number of slum people reached more than 35 per cent of the people living in major cities. Not only has Dhaka been experiencing rapid slum growth, its density is roughly 200 times greater than national population density. A World Bank study says that about four million homeless people passing floating life in major cities in Bangladesh. The situation will not improve rather will deteriorate due to the upward tendency of migration even of the fishermen for drying up rivers. The ongoing trend of migration will make the cities more dangerous places for settlement due to power outage, traffic congestion, water scarcity, inadequate sewerage, etc. However, the problem with unplanned and rapid urbanization was not adequately addressed in the past and has little scope to tackle the slum-based expansion. Can’t it be conceivable about the affect of any giant earthquake on human settlements in addition?
The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2008 is expected to deal with food insecurity, water crisis, river erosion, coastal erosion and ecological problems. Bangladesh is supposed to receive more than a hundred million dollars in climate resilience fund from developed countries to deal with problems related to climate change. However, it would not be able to save the country because of hysterical human actions at home and abroad. In the meantime, the negative consequences of uncontrolled human actions have been identified in environmental conferences. The RIO+20 has also shown the green path to address disasters and environmental problem. However, they are yet capable of imposing any global legal binding to reduce the antagonistic Newtonian interventions in the planet. In this context, the planned ‘Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100’ and bilateral negotiations might not be effective to secure human settlements. Need we not reduce the hostile human actions that threaten human settlements?
Dr Aminul Islam Akanda is associate professor and chairman, Department of Economics, Comilla University.
comments powered by Disqus