Combating climate change-related threats

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 22 Aug 2017, 20:36:31

Combating climate change-related threats

As a country so susceptible to the likely impacts of climate change, Bangladesh cannot afford to wait for things to come along its way. So, it is imperative that the government, NGOs and the civil society as a whole were proactive to devise ways to respond to the dire needs of the time, writes Wasi Ahmed
As the country finds itself under the unrelenting spell of rain and flash floods deluging almost half of its lands, it seems as though the havoc of climate change is a sight one need not imagine but just watch up-close. Understandably, of all the evils characterising climate change, the most ruinous one capable of shattering human living is the havoc that the rise of water level can unleash. 

As the country is now almost literally engulfed by flood waters, one only has to see the multiplicity of problems potentially crippling the economy in all perceptible forms-- homesteads ravaged and swept clean, cattle and other livestock gone, standing crops ruined, small businesses shut down, roads and railways disrupted. A catastrophe with all conceivable brutality! 

The proportion is so huge, blaming the authorities for failing to do the needful to reduce the impact may not be wise. However, it must be stated  that there are failures-some serious-- that are believed to have aggravated people's suffering. The Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), the designated official agency to take care of the situation by building and repairing dams and embankments, has been found to have done little to contain flash flood due to excessive downpour and flow of waters from the upper regions in India. Reportedly, the worst affected areas since the very beginning of flooding in the haor belt of the greater districts of Sylhet and Mynensingh could have got some protection if a big project undertaken some six years ago could be completed on time, two years before. Reports of lapses are also being heard of not repairing dams and embankments at many other critical points in the country.

Alertness and preparedness could have saved lives and also lessen the severity to some extent. However, we must not forget that these are all premonitions, even manifestations of what people in low-lying countries like ours dread most-- the calamity called climate change. So, there is no choice but to be prepared to face climate change. Being the most vulnerable country, Bangladesh has reasons to not just worry but put climate change high on the agenda.

At a conference held in the capital recently, science and technology minister made no secret of what is being widely circulated, courtesy of the media. As he said, the looming impact of climate change threatens to force 20-30 million people away from their homes in Bangladesh as vast swathes of the country run the risk of disappearing under water in the not very distant future. The minister was speaking at a seminar at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) on raising awareness among Bangladeshi researcher and business communities about Horizon 2020-- a flagship research and innovation programme of the EU for the period 2014 to 2020.

It has been gathered that Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research and innovation programme making available almost €80 billion to fund collaborative research projects by researchers from Europe and beyond. Climate-related expenditure is expected to constitute over 35 per cent of Horizon 2020 budget. 

This, no doubt, is a big opportunity for Bangladeshi firms to become a part of the research parties. A partnership with European firms can benefit Bangladesh to improve understanding of the economics of climate change and pool resources in a structured manner to develop tools and methods for determining the impacts. Known as the world's largest research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, was launched in 2014 and now awareness programmes are held in different countries including Bangladesh.

Given the financial resource-base coupled with advanced research modalities of Horizon, it is important that the government should also put in its best to attract researchers to establish tie-ups with the organisation to study and research on climate change-related threats. After all, it is primarily the strategies that are crucial to actions that countries fraught with the threats will have to take. In order that the actions are sustainable, sound research is the only way out. 

With the US backtracking from its commitment on the global climate change agenda, things are indeed more challenging now than they looked a few years back. However, the good thing is that the exit of the US has made the EU more and more forthcoming in its endeavours regarding the future course of actions. As a country so susceptible to the likely impacts of climate, Bangladesh cannot afford to wait for things to come along its way. So, it is imperative that the government, NGOs and the civil society as a whole remained proactive to devise ways in response to the dire needs of the time.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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