Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Towards a disaster-resilient Bangladesh

Syed Shahnawaz Ali, Safiya Sayed Baharun and M Mizanur Rahman in the Financial Express (Bangladesh):  Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world due to its geological location, high density of population and poverty. Although the international community knows it as a leader in disaster management, with the passage of time, the country's vulnerability to natural disasters is increasing in so far as the possibilities of urban-centred calamities are concerned.

Moreover, climate change adds a new dimension to community risks and vulnerability. Although the magnitude of these changes may appear to be small, they could substantially increase the frequency and intensity of the existing climatic events (floods, droughts, cyclones etc). Current indications are that not only will floods and cyclones become more severe; they will also start to occur outside their 'routine seasons'. Events, such as drought, may not have previously occurred in some areas, but it may now be witnessed in those parts of land.

Seven earthquakes of various magnitudes and several minor tremors have occurred in Bangladesh in the past. Although no major earthquake has hit Bangladesh over the past 70 years, it is located in a seismically active zone and, therefore, highly prone to major earthquakes. Accelerated urbanisation and high population densities amplify the vulnerability of Bangladesh, and this might lead to mass-scale deaths and injuries in case of an earthquake. Sylhet city, for example, is highly prone to natural hazards, mainly earthquakes and floods.

We see the quake-vulnerability of the country with possible urban disasters looming owing to its lack of infrastructure and so many technical problems. The government has a very limited capacity to respond to these shocks and, of course, after all sorts of unplanned urbanisation, it is very difficult to attain the capacity of responding effectively to urban disasters like earthquakes in Bangladesh....

A crowd in Dhaka, shot by Ahron de Leeuw, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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