Natural calamities in coastal area  

Dhaka,  Mon,  25 September 2017
Published : 16 Mar 2017, 21:15:12

Natural calamities in coastal area  

That the government is alive to the danger posed to the country by storms, cyclones and tidal surges is clear from the disaster management and relief minister's call to coastal people for keeping them abreast of weather bulletin. He makes the call not for nothing. There is an apprehension that natural disasters like storms, cyclones or tidal surges may make their visitation earlier than they were used to in the past. Yet such calls are likely to fall on deaf ears. However, his directive to departments and offices at grass-roots level to remain prepared for timely evacuation of coastal people and post-disaster operation will definitely count. Already the decision to raise the height of 60,000 houses in 19 flood-prone districts in order to make those disaster-resilient has been well appreciated. Initially, the height of households of the poor and insolvent with aged or physically challenged members will be raised. 

The coastal belt, most vulnerable to cyclones and tidal surges with 44 million inhabitants, stretches along the southern fringe of the country to face the Bay of Bengal. They are most vulnerable to climate change. Most of the inhabitants there depend on resources from the sea for their livelihood. A huge number of people are involved with and depend on fishing. But due to rising sea level, saline water intrusion crossed its limit long before and affected fresh water sources making drinking water a scarce resource. Livestock rearing has also recorded a drastic fall. Height of daily tides has also increased due to the sea-level rise. It has worsened the effects of salinity intrusion. 

If salinity's slow but sure adverse impact prompted by rising sea is a great concern, storms and cyclone only make the situation even worse accelerating the process of saline water intrusion. Thus the problems that need to be addressed in the coastal areas are poverty and food insecurity, water logging, lack of shelter, water scarcity, sanitation, insecure livelihoods and insufficient institutional capacity for disaster management. An early warning is also very important for emergency preparedness. The more precise the forecasting system is, the greater the possibility of taking right type of preparedness for the looming hazards. Such a warning system can save lives and prevent loss of property significantly during floods and cyclones.

Inadequate and improper cyclone shelters, poor maintenance of existing ones and lack of plan for setting up new shelters remain a matter of grave concern for people of the coastal belt. More high-rise cyclone and tidal surge shelters are required. The existing shelters, mostly set up after 1991 cyclonic storm and several others before the War of Liberation, lie in a miserable state. Thus grass-roots and community-based organisations have a  crucial role to play in meeting the challenges facing the coastal people today. Preparedness for an emergency situation must involve community people, grass-roots organisations and local administration in order to deliver the goods.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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