The aftermath of Cyclone Bulbub in November 2019. Picture: Tebogo Monama.
The aftermath of Cyclone Bulbub in November 2019. Picture: Tebogo Monama.

Bangladesh impeding climate disaster threatens lives, natural resources

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Jan 16, 2020

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The Australian bush fires have shone a light on climate change in a way that has not been done before.

Millions of hectares of land have been razed by the fires that have been burning since September.

Another climate disaster that has gone largely ignored is one that is threatening the livelihoods and natural resources of the residents of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

When visiting the Sundarbans National Park - which is home to the Royal Bengal tiger and the world’s largest mangroves forest - you can still see the damage done to the coastline and homes after it was hit by Cyclone Bulbub in November 2019 that left at least 20 people dead in India and Bangladesh.

The aftermath of Cyclone Bulbub in November 2019.

While visiting the islands in the national park, you can see rebuilding efforts, but also the damage the storm caused in the coastal Khulna area.

Uprooted trees and buildings that have been damaged by the storm are present all over the coast.

The country’s government is not oblivious to the threats. Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen admitted the country had been affected by the serious threat of climate change.

Momen said: “We are the most vulnerable country when it comes to climate change.”

He said the country needed to come up with new water management skills to deal with how to save water. Currently, there are more than 230 rivers that flow through the small country which is one of the poorest in the world.

“We have plenty of water, but we can’t manage it well. We have floods and wastage. We need to develop young people skilled in water management. We need to spend a lot of money on skills development.”

According to a September 2019 report by the International Institute for Environment and Development, titled “Bearing the climate burden: how households in Bangladesh are spending too much”, rural Bangladesh households are spending 158 billion taka (R26bn) a year on repairing the damage caused by climate change and on prevention measures.

Damage done by Cyclone Bulbub in November 2019. Picture: Tebogo Monama

This is twice the amount that the government spends and 12 times more than international donors.

In 2015, the country’s 24 million rural families spent on average 6608 taka on climate change per household in a year, compared with 3084 taka spent per household by the government and only 533 taka by multilateral international finance over the same period.

“As a result, families living in poverty are having to divert money away from such basic necessities as food, education and health in order to repair damage to their homes and replace animals or destroyed crops. Not only is this causing families increased hardship, it is also causing disaster- affected households to borrow from informal sources at high interest rates, pushing them deeper into poverty,” the report stated.

Trees damaged by Cyclone Bulbub in November 2019.

And this is why the country’s minister of information, Dr Hasan Mahmud said it was time to deal with climate change head on.

“The politics of denial are over. Unlike in other countries where all the parties agree that it is a national issue, here we have other political parties who are in the politics of denial. They have a mentality of criticising and not conversation,” Mahmud said.

Most of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is untouched by tourism and that might be one of the reasons to visit the country. Visiting the South Asian country will make you realise that there is more to it than the headlines about overpopulation at 160million and being one of the world’s poorest countries.

While it is important to visit Bangladesh to see the effects of overpopulation and growing inequality, there are also cultural and natural wonders that are worth seeing.

The country is still in the early stages of building up its tourism industry so travellers should be willing to rough it a bit.

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