Collaboration is the best solution to disaster management
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently stressed the need for collaboration and cooperation among neighbouring countries to minimize damages caused by natural disasters. In general, Bangladesh contributes little to climate change, but it is one of the worst-affected countries due to its geographical location, which is highly prone to natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, landslides, and earthquakes. The Global Climate Risk Index 2017 published by GERMANWATCH says, from 1998 to 2017, over half a million people died as a direct result of more than 11,500 extreme weather events.
Setting the scene
Under the free market economy, the Asia-Pacific region has attained consistent growth in industrialization, infrastructure development, health care, food productivity, and tourism. However, such development merely embraced protection of natural resources and environmentally sound management practices.
Regional integration is very important, not only for global economic development and international relations, but also for securing the regional environmental and climate status. In this region, environmental deterioration continues through deforestation, destruction of wetlands and inland fisheries, surface and ground-water pollution, soil nutrient depletion, and inland salinity intrusion.
Also, natural calamities have resulted in severe socio-economic and environmental damage by a combination of natural/anthropogenic factors. Although they are making some effort to resolve some of these environmental issues, no effort will be adequate to face these challenges without identifying the underlying causes and addressing them.
The right to natural resources of people is essential for the standard of living in the Asia-Pacific region. For disaster management, all states look forward to make changes through their own countries’ environment crisis and management experiences. This co-operative approach among nations could play a fundamental role in reducing climatic impacts.
Regional integration can help to overcome some of the impediments. Regional integration may ensure energy and environmental security through financial, technical, political, social, and cultural resources. An initiative known as the Abu Dhabi Dialogue Group (ADDG) was formed with seven Himalayan countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan for “a cooperative and knowledge-based partnership of states fairly managing and developing the Himalayan river systems to bring economic prosperity, peace and social harmony, and environmental sustainability from the source to the sea.”
In Himalayan countries, we notice that the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna (GBM) river system flows through five countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal -- characterized by large population, limited land resources, and frequent natural hazards. Regional integration may enable the people of this region to achieve multiple benefits through multi-purpose river projects.
Also, it may lend a hand to store monsoon water, mitigate the impacts of floods and droughts, augment dry season river flows, expand irrigation and navigation facilities, generate hydro-power, and enhance energy and green security.
In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) is the first ever national climate fund established by a least developed country and initiates various projects to help coastal and vulnerable communities.
Environmental planning model
This writer proposes an “Asia-Pacific natural disaster security network.” It would identify the financial, technical, and social constraints for environmental security.
In terms of disaster management and pollution control, political parties of every country through their politico-economic thought and action can ensure public participation and power decentralization to resolve climate crisis.
There are several examples around the world of regional integration in environmental and river security including the Mekong River Commission (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam), convention and protection of the Rhine (Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland under EU Framework), Nile basin initiative (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and Congo) and the Senegal river basin water and environmental management project (Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal).
If we consider the sustainable development strategies, there are 17 goals and 169 targets. Among others, disaster management is the key component. Through regional integration, every country of South Asia and Southeast Asia will reap the benefits of environmentally sustainable strategies.
Bangladesh is advancing towards national resilience, guided by our vision 2021 and 2041 to contribute to global commitments and targets. Collaboration among the nations of Asia and the Pacific region, especially among neighbours, is very important in facing the great magnitude of damage that could arise from climate change induced natural calamities.
Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst and Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.