Increasing Cyclone Risk Management Competency

Farid Hasan Ahmed :
Cyclones from the Bay of Bengal accompanied by storm surges are one of the major hazards in Bangladesh. The April-May and the October-December times are normally known to witness cyclones and coastal storm. Bangladesh is one of the worst sufferers of cyclones in terms of casualties. The current climatic vicissitudes are significantly irritating Bangladesh’s disaster susceptibility. A total of 19 districts, out of a total of 64, covering a total of 147 upazilas (sub-districts), are in the coastal zone. Cyclones and storm surges are a continuous threat for the coastal population.
It is important to prepare contingency plan (if not done yet) in all the administrative layers of coastal area with the provision of necessary resources and updating mechanism. It is imperative to strengthen the emergency medical facilities across the vulnerable locations of the coastal belt to treat fatalities in time is an area of intervention.
Nobody can prevent cyclones. But, the negative consequences could be reduced. The respective authorities at different level should strengthen capacity building initiatives of local government and communities at risk. A well organized and coordinated effort is needed to further strengthening local level planning, implementing decision making process and the allocation of resource to local government for cyclone proof programme in the vulnerable location.
The networks of embankments in some areas are vulnerable to cyclone and storm damage.Over the last few years, almost every year, once or twice the cyclone-tidal waves have wrecked down the fragile embankment and flooded the vast area with seawater. According to the Khulna Circle of the Water Development Board, the condition of 157km out of 1,854km embankment in the three coastal districts is at risk as on now.
The physical damage caused by the shrimp industry, and a general lack of timely and adequate maintenance are also increases vulnerabilities of coastal areas. The current embankments, dams, dikes, green belt and other infrastructures have to be critically reviewed.
Some targeted but tested cyclone risk reduction activities both structural (embankments, polders, river protection, cyclone shelters, housing scheme, roads, water and sanitation facilities) and non-structural (improving awareness and networks, early warning dissemination, coordination mechanism etc.) could be under taken/reinforced in consultation with community at risk and relevant experts/organizations.
Private sectors could be involved in structural measures with appropriate facilitation and accountability mechanism from Government authorities. But limitations such as outfitted difficulties of physical workings and weak management set-up for operation, maintenance and protection, environmental consequences and lack of engagement of people of the interventions needs to be addressed effectively by the authorities.
Appropriate allocation, rapid flow of fund and effective monitoring and supervision of these kinds of urgent activities should be ensured by authorities responsible at different layers. Role of local governments and communities at the different stages of the work needs to be emphasized, supported and ensured by authorities.
Fishing, agriculture, shrimp farming, salt farming and tourism are the main economic activities in the coastal area which are very vulnerable to cyclone hazards.Urgent effort should be taken by concern agencies to these setups. Crop type and pattern should be selected according to susceptibility of cyclone and salinity; urgent effort should be given by concern agencies to find new but improved variety of species which have cyclone and salt resistance.
A proper housing design able to withstand high winds or storm surges needs to be prepared and popularized offering technical, social and financial assistance to the people in risk.
Improving cyclone risk management of coastal area is a noteworthy pace to protect lives, livelihoods, crops, infrastructures, assets and properties in Bangladesh. More advanced initiatives in this, from the responsible authorities, duty bearers and organizations, are very much important for moving towards better-off and resilient Bangladesh.

(Farid Hasan Ahmed is Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Expert, and a
Development Lawyer).