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Little knowledge on assessing disaster-related losses a bar to demand compensation

  • Published at 12:42 am November 17th, 2018
Disasters
Bangladesh has collected information on only seven major disasters,which count damages of only $11.6 billion in the last 20 years Dhaka Tribune

Smaller crises and non-economic damages should also be considered, experts say

Despite being one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh has little information on assessing losses and damages caused by it. This has become a bar to demanding sufficient compensation in the world forum.

Bangladesh has collected information on only seven major disasters,which count damages of only $11.6 billion in the last 20 years (1998-2017).Meanwhile, the most polluting country United States of America has collected information on 482 disasters that occurred in the same period, and have estimated economic losses of $945 billion. China has calculated its losses and damages at $492 billion from its 577 disaster events during that time period.

Among others, Japan recorded economic losses and damages of $376.3 billion, India of $79.5 billion, Puerto Rico of $71.7 and Germany of $57.9 billion.

According to the Disaster Management Department (DMD), Bangladesh has recorded only 7 major events. Heavy floods in 1987, 1988, 1998, 2004, 2007caused Bangladesh an economic loss of $8.4 billion; and cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Aila in 2009 caused $3.2 billion in losses. That brings the total losses and damages to $11.6 billion in that time period. 

A recent global study titled “Economic losses, poverty and disasters 1998-2017”, jointly conducted by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), shows that in the last 20 years,disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses valued at $2,908 billion. That includes both climate-related and geophysical disasters, of which climate-related disasters caused 77% or $2,245 billion. 

Among the disasters, earthquakes and volcanic activity are recognized as geophysical,while floods, cyclones, drought and wildfires are the most dangerous forms of climate-related disasters.

On the whole, reported losses from extreme weather events rose globally by 151% during two terms of 20-year periods. The World Bank has calculated the actual cost to the global economy is a staggering $520 billion per annum, with disasters pushing 26 million people into poverty every year.

Experts term it as alarming, and say that besides giving serious thought to the issue, we should also demand compensation at the global forum, and should maintain data on losses and damages to build our own capacity to adapt to these situations.

Shashanka Saddi, head of the emergency preparedness and response program at BRAC, said we have to calculate actual losses from all events via a proper and internationally acceptable mechanism, as we face small floods, droughts and storms every year that are being  unrecognized.

“We can make demands only when we have related data about our losses and damages. At the annual conference of parties (COP24), we should play more a active role within LDC and G77 groups to negotiate,” he said. 

“How can we demand compensation if we are ignorant about the issue?” he asked.

A report says developed countries of the world keep records of most of their losses and damages. On an average, they record data of 53% of disasters, while lower middle income countries like Bangladesh calculate losses and damages of only 31% of disasters. About 87% disasters of lower-income countries were not recorded, as they were able to keep records of only 13% of disasters. And upper middle-income countries keep records of 40% of disaster-related information. 

Among the reported disasters, floods occurred 3,148 times, storms 2059times, earthquakes 563times, extreme temperature 405times, landslides 378 times, drought 347times, wildfires 254times, volcanic activity 99times and mass movement (dry) 12 times.

People were mostly affected by floods. Two billion people were affected by floods, 1.5 billion by drought, 726 million by storms, 125 million by earthquakes, 97 million by extreme temperatures, 4.8 million by landslides, and wild fire, volcanic activity and mass movement (dry) affected 6.2 million people. 

Developed countries, including neighbours China and India, are mostly responsible for global warming, which has made Bangladesh one of the most vulnerable countries to climate-related disasters.

COP24 will be held from December 2 this year at Katowice in Poland, where losses and damage-related issues will be among the most debated issues. 

Dr Md Shamsuddoha, chief executive of the Center for Participatory Research and Development (CPRD), said developed nations are interested in direct economic losses through insurance mechanisms, which is also a business tool. They are not interested in the other non-economic losses which are also important and caused by climate change.

“Pressure is being created on developed nations to compensate both for economic and non-economic damages. We hope we will have some achievement in the international forum, especially at the upcoming COP24,” he said.

“Bangladesh should develop a mechanism to assess climate-related losses and damages. The government should realize its importance and decide which ministry or department will play the key roles.”

Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Satya Brata Saha told the Dhaka Tribune that we have data on economic losses and damages of major disasters, but we need to count minor disaster-related losses too. For a sustainable economy, it is necessary to keep records of losses and damages.

“We have already developed a model for loss and damage assessment. We are going to take up a pilot project in this regard, and if needed we will amend the assessment mechanism model in the light of that experience,” he said.

“The model will be placed at COP24 with a hope that other countries, both developed and least developed, will accept it,” he added. 

In March this year, a committee was formed for developing a national mechanism on climate change induced disaster-related losses and damages,in light of a study report from the ministry of disaster management and relief. The process was started in 2016.