Climate Change & its Impacts on Bangladesh

Introduction:

Bangladesh is one of the largest deltas in the world which is highly vulnerable to Natural Disasters because of its Geographical location, Flat and low-lying landscape, Population density, Poverty, Illiteracy, Lack of Institutional setup etc. In other words, the Physical, Social as well as Economic conditions of Bangladesh are very typical to any of the most vulnerable countries to Natural Disasters in the world. The total land area is 147,570 sq. km. consists mostly of Floodplains (almost 80%) leaving major part of the country (with the exception of the north-western highlands) prone to flooding during the rainy season. Moreover, the adverse affects of Climate Change – especially High Temperature, Sea-level Rise, Cyclones and Storm Surges, Salinity Intrusion, Heavy Monsoon Downpours etc. has aggravated the overall Economic Development scenario of the country to a great extent.

Bangladesh has got a population of around 150 million (2011) with a life expectancy at birth of around 63 years, and an adult literacy rate of 47.5%. The recent Human Development Report ranks Bangladesh number 140 of 177 nations. Bangladesh has an average annual population growth rate of around 2% (4.6% in urban areas), almost 75% of the population lives in rural areas and a population density of 954.4 (people per sq. km.). Bangladesh is predominantly Agricultural with two thirds of the population engaged in farming or Agro-based industrial activity mainly. The climate of Bangladesh can be characterized by High temperatures, Heavy rainfall, High humidity, and fairly marked three seasonal variations like Hot Summer, Shrinking Winter and Medium to Heavy Rains during the Rainy season.

Climatic Impacts:

Bangladesh experiences different types of Natural Disasters almost every year because of the Global Warming as well as Climate Change impacts, these are:  

Floods / Flash Floods (Almost 80% of the total area of the country is prone to flooding).

Cyclones and Storm Surges (South and South-eastern Parts of the country were hit by Tropical Cyclones during the last few years).

Salinity Intrusion (Almost the whole Coastal Belt along the Bay of Bengal is experiencing Salinity problem).

Extreme Temperature and Drought (North and North-western regions of the country are suffering because of the Extreme Temperature problem).

Sectoral Impacts

Agriculture and Fisheries:

As already mentioned earlier, the economy of Bangladesh is based on Agriculture mainly, with two thirds of the population engaged (directly or indirectly) on Agricultural activities; although the country is trying move towards industrialization slowly during the last one and a half decade almost. So, the overall impact of Climate Change on Agricultural production in Bangladesh would be wide spread and devastating for the country’s economy. Beside this, other impacts of Climate Change such as - Extreme Temperature, Drought, and Salinity Intrusion etc. are also responsible for the declining crop yields in Bangladesh. Temperature and Rainfall changes have already affected crop production in many parts of the country and the area of arable land has decreased to a great extent. The Salinity intrusion in the coastal area is creating a serious implications for the coastal land that were traditionally used for rice production.

The fisheries sector has also experienced an adverse affect because of the impacts of Climate Change. The fisheries sector contributes about 3.5% of the GDP in Bangladesh and people depend on fish products in order to meet up majority of their daily protein requirements. There are around 260 species of fish in the country and almost all the varieties are sensitive to specific salt and freshwater conditions.

Water Resources and Hydrology:

In a high density country like Bangladesh, the effects of Climate Change on the Surface and Ground water resources will be very severe and alarming. Changes to water resources and hydrology will have a significant impact on the country’s economy, where people mostly depend on the Surface water for Irrigation, Fishery, Industrial production, Navigation and similar other activities.

Coastal Areas:

Almost one forth of the total population of the country live in the coastal areas of Bangladesh, where majority of the population are some how affected (directly or indirectly) by Coastal Floods / Tidal Surges, River-bank Erosion, Salinity, Tropical Cyclones etc. With the rise of Sea-level  up to one meter only, Bangladesh could lose up to 15% of its land area under the Sea water and around 30 million people living in the coastal areas of Bangladesh could become Refugees because of Climate Change impacts. Agriculture, Industry, Infrastructure (School, Hospitals, Roads, Bridges and Culverts etc.), Livelihoods, Marine Resources, Forestry, Biodiversity, Human Health and other Utility services will suffer severely because of the same. Salinity Intrusion from the Bay of Bengal already penetrates 100 kilometers inside the country during the dry season and the Climate Change in its gradual process is likely to deteriorate the existing scenario to a great extent. Since most of the country is less than 10 meters above Sea level and almost 10% of the population of the country is living below 1 meter elevation - the whole coastal area is Highly Vulnerable to High Tides and Storm Surges. Moreover, the Bay of Bengal is located at the tip of the north Indian Ocean, where severe Cyclonic storms as well as long Tidal waves are frequently generated and hit the coast line with severe impacts because of the Shallow as well as Conical shape of the Bay near Bangladesh.

Forestry / Biodiversity:

Bangladesh has got a wide diversity of Ecosystems including Mangrove forests at the extreme south of the country. The “Sundarbans” a World Heritage, is the largest Mangrove Forest in the world, comprising 577,00 ha of land area along the Bay of Bengal. A total of 425 species have been identified there, the most significant is the famous Royal Bengal Tiger. Therefore, Climate Change impacts will have negative effects on the Ecosystem of the Forest recourses in Bangladesh while the Sundarbans is likely to suffer the most.

Urban areas:

Cities and Towns situated along the Coastal belt in Bangladesh are at the Front line of Climate Change related Disaster impacts and could experience a severe damage directly because of the Sea level Rise and Storm Surges at any time. Direct impacts may occur through the increased Floods, Drainage congestion and Water logging as well as Infrastructure Damage during extreme events. The important Urban sectors that suffered severely by the previous floods in Bangladesh include Urban Infrastructure, Industry, Trade, Commerce and Utility services etc. As consequence, it hampered usual productivity during and after major floods and hence increased the vulnerability of the urban poor by many folds. It should be mentioned here that, around 40 per cent of the urban population in Bangladesh lives in the Slum and Squatter settlements of the major cities which are highly prone to Disaster risk during Flooding further.

Vulnerable groups:

The Urban poor are therefore directly at the risk of Natural Disasters being enhanced by the impacts of Climate Change - especially in the absence / shortage of the necessary Infrastructure as well as Employment opportunity for them in the major cities of the country. In Bangladesh, Women are especially Vulnerable because of the Gender inequalities in the Socio- economic and Political institutions. During the 1991Cyclone and Storm surge in Bangladesh, the death rate in case of women was almost five times higher than the men. Because men were able to communicate with each other in the public spaces, but the information did not reach most of the women timely.

Conclusion:

Dear Global Citizens... and Friends of the Global Village...!

The Glaciers are Melting, Sea-level is Rising since the World is getting Warmer - our Coast line, Green Villages, Paddy fields, Schools, Hospitals, Markets are sinking... Please, come forward and let’s fight our Common Problems together...!

People are losing their Homesteads, Agriculture fields, Sweet water Ponds, Fishery, Poultry, Livestock and every thing... Becoming Homeless - taking shelter in the roadside Unhygienic Squatters and Slums. Once upon a time – they had Sweet Families along with all the members - Mom-Dad, Brothers-Sisters, Husband-Wife, Sons and Daughters...! They were surrounded by Greeneries, Water bodies, Vegetable gardens and Fruit trees - Cows, Goats, Hens and Ducks were common in every family... now, all are sweet memories...! Small Boats used to play in the Canals and Rivers - were the main mode of Transportation That Village was like a piece of Heaven... they lived for generations...!

Dear Friends, let’s Protect our Lovely Planet as the Safe Home for our future Generation...
Please... Let’s not think, Climate Change as an Individual Problem of any country or nation – Let’s think, it’s our Common Issue, we’ve to face efficiently as “Citizens of the Global Village” from now on...!  

With Best Regards –

A.K.M. Rezaul Karim.

(Architect-City Planner)

Bangladesh.
29-03-2012