Loss and damage from Cyclone Sidr
Being a natural disaster-prone country, every year Bangladesh experiences a diverse range of natural disasters like floods, erosion, torrential rains, or cyclones. Statistics show that during the last 100 years more than 500 cyclones originated from the Bay of Bengal, 17% of which ended up hitting Bangladesh.
As a result, in the last 100 years, on average Bangladesh experienced at least one drastic cyclone every three years. More than half of these cyclones caused the death of at least five thousand lives on each occasion. The deadliest cyclone Bangladesh experienced during the last twenty years was Sidr which, with winds up to 240 kilometers per hour, hit the southwest coastal region of the country in 2007.
The cyclone was accompanied by tidal waves (up to five meters high and surges up to six meters in some areas), breaking coastal and river dams/embankments, flooding low-lying coastal areas, and causing widespread physical damage. The total losses and damages caused by Sidr were estimated to Tk115.6 billion ($1.7 billion). Besides, 3,500 people died and more than 1,000 people were never found. The cyclone caused physical injuries to more than 50,000 people.
A study conducted by the Bangladesh Government in 2008, divided the losses and damages caused by Sidr into the following sectors: Loss of fixed assets and infrastructure, social sectors; industry, commerce, and tourism; cross-cutting issues like environment and ecosystem.
Loss of Fixed assets and infrastructure include damages to housing, transport, power, telecommunications, water supply and sanitation, urban and municipal infrastructure, embankments, and water control structures. As for the loss of housing, it was found that 34% of the total affected households completely lost their primary residences, and 17% of households were partially damaged. In monetary value, households related total losses were accrued as $839 million. This amount equals almost 80% of total monetary value of infrastructure related damages caused by the cyclone.
Sidr caused damage to around 8,075km of roads in 11 districts of the country. This damage was estimated to be Tk8 billion ($115 million). The damage to the power sector was estimated to be Tk576 million ($ 8.2 million), 90% of which was borne by the Rural Electrification Board (REB).
The total estimated loss and damage that took place to the infrastructures of telecommunication in 11 districts was about Tk2 billion ($29.5 million). The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) reported that Sidr damaged 11,612 tube wells, 7,155 ponds and over 55,000 latrines.
Damages caused by Sidr to water supply and sanitation of the coastal areas of Bangladesh totaled Tk157 million ($ 2.28 million) and total loss was estimated to be Tk46 million ($0.67 million). Sidr also affected 50 municipalities in 15 districts through damaging infrastructures. The cost for reconstruction or rehabilitation of the damaged structures were accrued as Tk1.7 billion ($24.6 million). The total damages to over 2000km of embankments and other critical water control structures severely affected by Sidr amounted to about Tk4.9 billion ($71 million).
The damages to social sectors caused by Sidr include damages to the education department as well as damages to the health and nutrition department. The cyclone partially or fully damaged 5,927 educational institutions, which resulted in a total value of damage and losses of Tk4.7 billion. At the same time, it also affected the health, nutrition, and family planning department in the nine districts. The total value of damage and losses to this department was determined to be Tk1,206 billion ($17.5 million).
Impact of Sidr over the productive sectors includes agriculture (crops, livestock, and fisheries) as well as industry, commerce, and tourism. Around 2.2 million farmer-families were affected by Sidr. As for the loss of standing crops, it was found that 95% of direct losses were caused by high winds and storm surges destroying more than 6400 sq km of cropland.
Accordingly, the total damages and losses caused by Sidr for the crops were accrued as about Tk28.4 billion ($412 million). The damages to the fishery sub sector include damage to infrastructures such as ponds, dighis, and ghers; and damage to private fishing equipment such as boats and nets, etc. Such damages in the ten most affected districts were estimated to be Tk463 million ($6.7 million). At the same time, the estimated value of the damage caused by Sidr to the livestock was Tk1.3 billion ($19.33 million).
As for effects of Sidr over the industry, commerce, and tourism, Sidr caused blocking roads, stopping electricity supply, destroying premises and equipment, washing away inventories. Total damage and losses to non‐agriculture productive sectors was estimated to be Tk3.6 billion ($ 52.5 million). 92% of these damages were derived from production losses and seven percent were derived from physical damage. At the same time, the damages caused to small industries were accrued as Tk2.3 billion ($33.2 million).
In addition to the above-stated direct loss and damages on some sectors of the southwest coastal zone of Bangladesh, the adversities posed by Sidr have created losses to ecosystem services, livelihoods opportunities as well as local market and economy.
Ecosystems like mangrove forests and wetlands and the concerned ecosystem services are vital to sustain livelihoods. Over 70 livelihood-related activities are supported by these activities. Besides, mangrove forests protect coastal people from cyclones by reducing storm surge velocity and stabilizing sedimentation.
Unfortunately, the cyclone Sidr damaged about 1330 sq km or 22% of the total area of the Sundarban mangrove forest. It further damaged local livelihood opportunities by reducing the earnings of day labourers, which constitute more than 80% of the local labour market of the Sidr affected coastal region. Above all, Sidr distorted the local market and economy by creating loss of local production and localized supply shortages of many goods.
Finally, it is possible to remark that the people of the south-west coastal region whose livelihoods were damaged by cyclone Sidr in 2007 are still struggling to recover from the loss they suffered.
Md Mahatab Uddin has a PhD in Law, and is currently working in the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) as a Visiting Researcher. His research interests lie in climate change law and policy, intellectual property law, artificial intelligence, precision agriculture, marine environment, technology transfer, and sustainable development. Dr Uddin can be reached at [email protected]