Amid increasing threats of climate change, Bangladesh today observes the fourth anniversary of cyclone Sidr, one of the worst natural calamities the country experienced since its birth in 1971.
This year the day comes with a special significance as the Climate Vulnerable Forum concluded its two-day conference in Dhaka yesterday ahead of the global climate conference in Durban, South Africa, on November 28.
Bangladesh dated with a nightmare on November 15 with the storm ripping through the country’s south-western region at a wind speed of 223 kilometres per hour (kmph), highest since the 1991 hurricane that had a wind speed of 225 kmph.
The cyclone claimed around 4,000 lives and affected about 8.5 million people. Around 1.2 million livestock were destroyed and standing crops of 2.4 million acres of land were damaged.
The overall economic loss caused by the cyclone was estimated at $1.7 billion, according to statistics of Oxfam Bangladesh, an international charity group.
In less than 2 years, another cyclone, Aila, hit the same region bringing almost the similar suffering to the people. Crops were damaged, embankments destroyed, vast area of land became saline, people remained homeless — the features that are likely to worsen as the global warming continues to increase the deadly effects of natural disasters, including rise of sea levels.
Bangladesh’s south-western region remains at the forefront of the vulnerable regions of the world. The situation gets worse when the authorities — both national and international — fail to agree on cutting carbon emission and mobilise funds to set up appropriate structures to permanently protect the people from the onslaughts of disasters, and cannot develop crop varieties suiting the extreme weather or saline soil conditions.
“After disasters, all rushed with emergency aid. But the authorities are not coming ahead with real help to ensure a sustainable solution,” said Swapan Guha, executive director of Rupantor, an NGO working in the coastal zone.
There are only a few cyclone shelters compared to the requirement. Neither the donors nor the government are eager to build houses, which can protect the coastal people from the tidal surges, he noted.
“We’ve seen embankments were repaired, though late after Aila, but anytime these can get damaged. There is no effort until now to build stronger and higher embankments that can prevent tidal surges,” mentioned Swapan.