Protecting people from losing their homes and assets due to climatic hazards should be a top priority for the government when it comes to financing climate action
According to experts, the intensity and frequency of cyclones, floods, and other climatic hazards are increasing due to climate change. Recognizing the reality of the phenomenon, the Government of Bangladesh has adopted different policies and measures such as the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP), National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Climate Fiscal Framework (CFF), Country Climate Investment Plans to support climate action in the country. Programs like BCCTF facilitate allocation of fiscal budgets in climate change adaptation. But are these policies and programs successfully protecting the people of Kamarjani, Mollar Char, Padmapukur, Gabura, Bedkashi, and Koyra Sadar Union?
Eight hundred families from Mollar Char union and four hundred families from the Kamarjani Union, situated in the Sadar Upazila of Gaibandha, have migrated elsewhere following the loss of their homestead, assets, and means of livelihoods due to river erosion of the mighty Brahmaputra. Year after year people inhabiting the south-west coastal region, including Padmapukur and Gabura union of Shymanagar of Satkhira, and Dakhin Bedkashi, Uttar Bedkashi, Koyra Sadar union of Koyra Upazila of Khulna, continue to be affected by coastal river erosion and are forced to migrate to other regions only for survival.
The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), formulated in 2005, has 15 priority activities listed for adaptation. However, embankment construction has not been not included in the priority list. BCCSAP, developed in 2009, provides some considerations for embankments and coastal polders under the thematic pillar of Infrastructure. However, evidence suggests that these macro policies have not adequately taken the needs and priorities of those at the micro-level into consideration, failing to benefit or protect people most affected by climatic hazards.
In addition, top-down programmatic approaches have also created some loopholes, resulting in irregularities in climate fund allocation. In the past, influential ministers, lawmakers and politically powerful leaders have often secured climate funds for their own constituencies under these macro policies. Since these macro policies are not supported by the micro-level and community needs, it provides an opportunity for those with influence at the local level to leverage the funds for their own benefit, often with a complete disregard of the needs and priorities of those most affected. As a result, substantial resources are often channeled for implementing climate change projects in the country, which do not successfully protect those most susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
Coastal districts such as Satkhira and Khulna, flood-prone riverine districts such as Kurigram and Gaibandha, as well as the Haor region of Sunamganj and Sylhet, are some of the most vulnerable areas in the country to coastal and riverine floods. People are frequently displaced from these districts following a natural disaster. However, as we can see from table 1, according to the project implementation scenario from 2010-2015, the highest priority was given to Dhaka, Chattogram, and Barisal division. During this period, the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had appointed ministers who originally hailed from the Chattogram and Barisal divisions, resulting in these divisions being prioritized against the local adaptation priorities of other regions.
The sufferers in the coastal and riverine regions have long been demanding the construction of sustainable embankments for protecting their homes and livelihoods. But the government is yet to allocate the necessary funds for replacing the presently old and fragile embankments, built around 60 years ago. BCCSAP uses macro terminologies like adaptation to floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges, etc, and has policy directions on embankment repair and maintenance. But these are not specific and do not consider localized priorities and needs. So, the government continues to allocate funds for embankment repairs, while the local people continue to demand sustainable embankment construction.
Protecting people from losing their homes and assets due to climatic hazards should be a top priority for the government when it comes to financing climate action. However, macro-level climate policies do not adequately reflect these priorities. As such, funding to date has often been allocated towards comparatively low priority action areas priorities. It is imperative that the government resolves these priority gaps between policies and programs.
Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) has identified the union level priorities on climate change adaptation for 3 vulnerable Upazilas in the country, following consultation with riverine and coastal communities and local government institutions (LGIs). The government should refer to these experiences and utilize the LGIs to better understand local priorities on adaptation so that micro-level adaptation priorities can be effectively incorporated within macro-level policies and programs. A national adaptation priority and action plan could be developed based on these micro-level adaptation priorities, and priority projects could be funded accordingly in a chronological manner.
Prodip Kumar Roy is a Coordinator at the Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL).