Photo By Md Shanjir Hossain/Shutterstock.com
By Vidya Rehman Rana
While Bangladesh is still struggling to limit the impact of its COVID-19 outbreak, climate-induced disasters have hit the country one after another in 2020. The latest was a bout of heavy monsoon rainfall that triggered floods in Bangladesh on the heels of super cyclone Amphan that struck the country in July 2020. The surge has affected 5.4 million people in 30 districts.
Bangladesh only contributes less than 0.35% in global emissions, yet it is one of the world's most vulnerable countries to climate change due to both geographical and socio-economic factors. Rising sea levels, flat coastline, a dense web of river tributaries, growing population, poverty, and dependency on climate-sensitive sectors expose communities to all kinds of natural hazards.
Bangladesh learned very quickly that reducing the risk of disaster is the only way to save lives and sustain development. The international community reveres Bangladesh for its cutting-edge climate adaptation measures, despite having limited resources and competing priorities. Establishment of early warning systems, building cyclone shelters, storm defense walls, awareness-raising and capacity building in disaster management have contributed to reducing disaster-related death rates and protecting development.
For example, the monsoon flood in 2020 tragically killed 135 people compared to a similar flood in 1998 that claimed over 1000 lives. Similarly, in 2007 Bangladesh’s functional disaster management system kept the death toll of Cyclone Sidr below 3000, as compared to a similar category cyclone in 1991 that claimed 100,000 lives.
Over the decades, the country has had a slow but steady climb to climate resilience. Starting in 2005, when the first National Action Plan for Adaptation (NAPA) was developed, Bangladesh has ameliorated her laws, policies, plans, commitments, and implementation arrangements to reduce damage and take advantage of beneficial opportunities.
Moderating the climate shocks by improving adaptation policies
Despite making noteworthy progress, the lives and livelihoods of the people of Bangladesh are exposed to various disasters. The government acknowledges that the country is far from ready to cope with the increasing brutality and frequency of climate-induced hazards.
Several donors and non-governmental organizations have been supporting the government of Bangladesh’s efforts to adapt to climate change. The World Bank is the largest multilateral climate financer in Bangladesh which has been supporting national institutions through various projects, including a recently launched Climate Adaptation and Resilience for South Asia or CARE for South Asia Project.
The World Bank has approved 39.5 million USD to contribute to making South Asia climate-resilient, and Bangladesh is one of the project countries under CARE. The project will support the government's priority actions identified in the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Bangladesh Delta Plan 2021, and the National Adaptation Plan (NAP).
Haris Khan, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist of the World Bank, said that despite being among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, Bangladesh has emerged as one of the global leaders on climate adaptation and disaster resilience. “This project will help Bangladesh access scientific information, guidelines, innovative solutions, and knowledge which will inform adaptation actions, policies, and investments in key sectors like finance, planning, climate-smart agriculture, resilient transport infrastructure, and integrated water resource management,” he explained, adding that the project will invigorate cooperation amongst the South Asian countries to boost climate resilience.
Bangladesh's NDCs roadmap emphasizes including the NDCs priorities into development policies, programmes, and infrastructure projects by 'climate-proofing' existing budgets.
The CARE for the South Asia Project will support the Ministry of Planning (MoP) and the Ministry of Finance and Revenue (MoF) to embed climate resilience in policy, planning, and budgeting.
It will also upgrade the Public Finance Management (PFM) information system of the Ministry of Finance, which is critical to allocating the budget, tracking the expenditure, monitoring sustainability and assessing investment results in climate-related sectors.
The project is expected to benefit budgeting officers who will have opportunities for augmenting their capacities to prioritize investment and determine tax incentives and subsidies with additional investments for climate resilience. It will also equip them with the skills to develop long-term financing plans and devise a set of climate codes to track climate change expenditures for policy analysis and reporting.
Narrowing the data gap in Bangladesh
Lack of comprehensive data impedes climate-informed planning and investments. This will be addressed by improving existing information systems and introducing data generation and good data collection practices.
Through the CARE for South Asia Project, Bangladesh will benefit from user interfaces between national hydrometeorological agencies and line ministries, and further down the value chain of climate services.
Mapping critical infrastructures and high-risk zones through the project will inform investment planning and create a dynamic asset database to be used by various ministers.
Improving food security and reducing greenhouse gases through smart climate agriculture
Bangladesh's NDCs have committed an unconditional 5% and conditional 15% reduction in greenhouse gases from business as usual levels by 2030. The NDCs aim at raising the productivity of agricultural land and lowering emissions of methane.
The CARE for South Asia Project will support the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development by drafting guidelines on agro-climatic zoning and monitoring framework and designing comprehensive investment plans.
The project will support the development of country-specific guidance documents on agro-climatic zoning and locally applicable CSA practices and technologies, including the livestock sub-sector.
The project aims to help increase farmers' productivity and incomes through locally applicable climate-smart agriculture practices and technologies which will contribute to reducing emissions. The extension staff's capacities will also be developed to train smallholder farmers and agribusinesses on smart climate agriculture.
Developing standards for road infrastructure
The knock-on effects of climate change on the road transportation sector are increasing. With an overarching goal to enhance the resilience of Bangladesh's transport sector, the CARE for South Asia Project will mainstream climate adaptation practices into road infrastructure.
This will involve generating data through scientific studies to inform climate-resilient planning, design, construction, and maintenance in the transport sector.
Developing a climate-resilient infrastructure strategy for rural roads and incorporating climate-resilient design and practices into the Construction Practices and Procedures Manual will help enhance transport infrastructure's resiliency.
The project will map high-risk locations and critical infrastructures and inform investment planning through the "Online Road Network" and Decision Support System for the transport sector. This will also help the Roads and Highways Department prioritize roads and bridges maintenance and new construction projects.
Improving integrated water resources management
In 2018, the government approved the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP-2100) that takes a "long term view on water resource management, climate change and environmental challenges" tied to development.
CARE for South Asia Project supports Bangladesh in strengthening strategic and policy frameworks for integrated water resources. It will also provide climate risk analysis for water accounting ─ the systematic study of the status of, and trends in, water supply, demand, accessibility, and use in the specified domain. It will further support the drafting of the digital-based Monitoring & Evaluation policy framework under the Delta Plan implementation.
Implementing Bangladesh’s various long and short-term plans to achieve climate resilience and sustainable development depends on the relevant institutions' technical capacity, communities and individuals. The project aims at building technical capacities of climate sensitive sectors on using data, guidelines, standards, and tools to mainstream climate adaptation into development projects.
CARE for South Asia is a 5-year project supported by the World Bank. Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) are jointly implementing the project with an initial focus of activities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.