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Vulnerable to change

  • Published at 12:04 am December 4th, 2019
Environment
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A few strategies for the climate vulnerable

Climate change is now recognized as a great issue for agriculture in the coastal region of Bangladesh. The major impact of climate change in this region is increased salinity. The major effects of salinity on agriculture are still not very well understood. The agriculture sector depends highly on climate because of temperature, solar radiation, and precipitation -- the main drivers of crop growth. 

In the dry season, the water level drops up to 240km in the western part of Bangladesh, which causes severe salinity problems in 30 upazilas. The sea level rise can produce salinity impacts in surface water, ground water, and the soil. During the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon seasons, the coastal zone of Bangladesh is prone to tropical cyclones and storms.

In the coastal area of Bangladesh, climate vulnerability is a major concern. The coastal belt has been delineated based on three criteria: Tidal fluctuation, salinity intrusion, and cyclonic risk. The coastal belt is a low-lying area, so it is vulnerable to monsoon flooding and storm surges.

At least 265 million people have been internally displaced by disaster since the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) began recording this form of data in 2008 -- that’s 24 million people per year on average. The figure is, in fact, larger, given that we have only been able to quantify drought-induced displacement since 2017.

Development has a wider and more significant role in reducing vulnerability. The development process must examine the process -- whether it is generating vulnerability or not. It is agreed that development gains mean that vulnerability is reduced. On the other hand, development gains mean capacity development and improved resilience of the society and economy. 

One of the key sustainable development goals for us is to reduce poverty. Disaster is one of the major challenges to reducing poverty in a sustainable manner. Poverty degrades the environment and a degraded environment or ecology magnifies the consequences of disasters. 

It is always the extreme poor that are the most vulnerable. It is time to reinterpret the development process in a way that considers risk reduction. We need to transform our consumption and production processes. Re-thinking water, environment, ecology, waste management, natural resource use, energy use, infrastructure building, agricultural practices, and urbanization is also urgently required.

Otherwise, our development may be at risk from even moderate shocks.

The World Economic Forum has identified five obstacles to economic development this year: Income inequality, climate change, increasing polarization of societies, cyber-attacks, and a growing elderly population.

These are either the underlying risk factors or are the result of disasters. Therefore, we can say the challenge towards achieving the SDGs lies in managing risk through collaborative efforts by government organizations, NGOs, and the private sector. 

Shishir Reza is an environmental analyst.