Climate costs could sink us

The writer says good governance is needed to implement projects that will protect coastal districts.


September 14, 2022

DHAKA – The fact that extreme weather events are increasingly growing worse in Bangladesh is obvious from our climate experiences from this year alone. In June, heavy rainfall, flash floods and excessive water-flow from upstream rivers affected an estimated 7.2 million people in the north-east. Yet, this was followed up with a searing heat wave, where the average maximum temperature for the month of August was a three-decade high. This, along with the delay in the actual rainy season, meant that planting seasons were affected, and there are growing worries that food security will be threatened as a result.

Unfortunately, a new report from the World Bank signals this might only be the beginning. According to the report, because of climate change, cyclone-induced flooding could cause damages worth USD 570 million across coastal areas. This is not a one-off event – the report suggests that it will occur every year in future. It analysed the effects of rising sea levels on coastal districts, and found that some upazilas could go under as much as 8 metres (26 feet) of water as a result of floods if there is a sea level rise of half a metre. Depending on how severe the floods are, the damage could amount to as much as USD 21 billion.

The severity of this situation cannot be in any way understated. Not only will it have devastating impacts on livelihoods, farmlands, roads, and critical infrastructure; it will push saline water further into tidal channels, threatening agricultural production, water supplies, and the diversity of coastal ecosystems. The recent events in Pakistan, where more than 14,00 people have died, millions have been left homeless and an economic crisis has gripped the country, shows just how much danger we are facing.

Last month, it was reported that Bangladesh requires USD 230 billion by 2030 to implement the National Action Plan on climate change, but we urgently require international and bilateral support. While we urge the authorities to do everything to raise these funds, we must equally stress on the importance of using them with accountability and transparency. The corruption and irregularities in climate projects have been reported in this daily over the years, with a report finding, only last month, that the managing director of the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust has been collecting “donations” in exchange for releasing cheques to the projects under the trust.

The World Bank report’s analysis of coastal resilience projects also found a lack of maintenance as a significant challenge. In this, as in so many public projects, it is clear that a lack of good governance is hampering our progress. If we are to receive adequate funds, and eventually compensation from responsible countries for the loss and damage climate change has inflicted upon us, this has to change.

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