Posted by: shiree | October 18, 2011

Disaster resilient habitat – A Concept beyond cyclone shelter

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Muhammad Selim Hossain

Bangladesh, the largest delta of the world, is a flat deltaic lush green tropical country. The unique geography of the territory has fetched both boon and bane for its human habitations in chorus. Floodplain dominated geomorphology and fresh water subjugated hydrology surprisingly prop up diverse ecosystems and consequently rich biodiversity shaping the livelihood stand of the bulk people. Bitterly, a number of hydro-geo-physical features like tropical geo-location and flat deltaic topography with sea-facing low elevation have pushed the coastal territory to extreme vulnerability of stronger disasters akin to cyclone, tidal surge, tsunami, beach erosion, salinity intrusion and the like. Exclusively, her coastal belt being funnel-shaped, most of the cyclones bred in the Bay rush to the coastal inland in due course. Again, slow but sure increase of sea-surface-temperature resulting from global warming helps spawn cyclones in the Bay with soaring rate of recurrence and intensity every year. Moreover, the prevalent socio-economic limitations like extreme poverty and less infrastructural development help reinforce casualty in any disaster crops up there. Hence, the coastal people very often have to face mayhem — massive loss of life, untold long-term sufferings, and damage of property and environment.

The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 appallingly jog our memory of the fatality toll 1, 70,000 and 1, 38,866 correspondingly. Sidr, a category 4 cyclone with 200-240 km/hour wind speed, hit coastal Bangladesh on 15th November 2007. Not more than one and a half year later, Cyclone Aila batters the country’s coastal area on 25 May 2009.

Interestingly, if we make a glance at the statistics of cyclone disasters in Bangladesh over the last three decades, it plainly destined that cyclone disaster casualty has, beyond doubt, experienced a considerable control resulting from undertaken different initiatives but human sufferings and economic loss are on the rise unabated. It also deserves the present global scenario as the existing literature reveals. Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (2011; Chapter-2, p.18) states,

“In recent decades, countries in all regions have strengthened their capacities to reduce mortality risks associated with major weather-related hazards such as tropical cyclones and floods. In contrast, economic loss risk to tropical cyclones and floods is growing as exposure of economic assets increases. Additionally, losses suffered by low-income households and communities are increasing rapidly.”

For the full version of this article please read this month’s Forum, available free with The Daily Star on October 3.

The writer is a young researcher at Unnayan Onneshan and writes on climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and disaster management issues to The Daily Star.


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