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Economic impact of winter in Bangladesh

27 November 2022


Farid Hasan Ahmed, Phd :
Bangladesh is not a severely cold-prone country. People of Bangladesh are used to face normal winter season when the average temperature remains 13°C-20°C. But when the temperature falls down to a single digit, the hazard cold wave turns to a disaster like situation. In December and January, Bangladesh suffers from cold temperatures. Poor people in the northern part of the country are the worst affected.   
Biting cold coupled with dense fog paralyze normal life both in the urban and rural areas of Bangladesh in winter Season (December and January). A cold wave sweeps across the country intensify suffering of the poor. Cold wave sometimes claims the lives. Researchers stated that due to cold waves there is an average of 104.1 deaths per year.
The maximum number of cold-related deaths occurred in the Rangpur region. The numbers were much higher here than in the other divisions because Rangpur has the lowest average monthly air temperature during the winter season and the susceptible socioeconomic conditions.
The poor people, particularly the asset less people in the vulnerable region, are the most sufferers, as they lack sufficient warm clothes.
Crops especially potato, wheat, boro seedling and vegetables are vulnerable particularly to long lasting cold wave. Farmers and day laborers cannot work in the field due to cold. Women in the poor families face difficulties to do their domestic tasks. Thick fog together with harsh cold disrupts movement of all modes of transport across the country, causing immense sufferings to passengers.
During winter a good number of people suffer from pneumonia, cold diarrhea, cough, fever, asthma and other cold-related diseases. Due to incapability in buying warm clothes, poor and most vulnerable people struggle to escape from cold bite in the winter season. Many distressed people try to fight the bone chilling cold with the heat from burning straw, leaves and old rubber tyres. Livestock in sheds are covered with old sacks.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief of Bangladesh, the political parties, Humanitarian Organizations, NGOs, social organizations Banks and well off individuals distribute warm clothes and blankets among poor people in different parts of the country to reduce their sufferings. However, it is observed by media and others that the level of assistance is inadequate and very short sighted.
Distribution of these materials should be done following a systematic process with the participation of local people and organizations in advance before the cold wave turns into severity. The previous learning and observation of various organizations could be considered in planning and implementation.
Considering the current food security situation of the country and the globe, protection of the boro crops is very important from the beginning of the farming.  The following actions are generally suggested by relevant professionals to protect Boro seed bed from fog: 1.Cover up the seed bed with polythene sheets 2. Shed the dew drops from seeds by pulling a rope. 3. Pour water in the affected seed beds in the afternoon and remove the water in the next morning. 4. Spray proper quantity of appropriate medicine to destroy fungus. 5. Replace new plant at the place of affected plant if possible. 6. Take advice from local agriculture officials.
 Agriculture officials of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and relevant NGOs could take special steps to assist farmers in producing winter crops satisfactorily.
The cold wave which has a potentiality to turn into a disaster needs to bring under a special preparedness programme of concerned authorities and organizations. Cold waves might come again and again in the coming days particularly in winter season due to the negative effect of climate change.
It is necessary for the authorities and duty bearers to consider the sufferings of the people particularly in the most poverty stricken area of the country due to cold wave. Long term initiatives is needed to reduce the cold wave vulnerability of the poor through improving livelihoods, increasing income for making better houses and buying blanket and warm clothes, providing soft loan for buying winter clothes and medicines.
A special safety net programme with the affected people particularly in most vulnerable locations should be thought by relevant authorities and organizations. Inclusion of winter affected communities with proper vulnerability and capacity analysis in the development programmes of the government and other agencies could be a durable step for improving wintry resiliency. An integrated and broadband approach instead of an isolated and conventional blanket-centric show is very much needed for increasing the capacity of the most vulnerable section of society both in urban and rural areas. Supporting the cold-wave vulnerable people is very linked to the disaster management vision of the government 'to reduce the risk of people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, from the effects of natural, environment and human induced hazards to a manageable and acceptable humanitarian level and to have in place an efficient emergency response management system.'
All agencies could take proper actions before any hazard big or small occurs in succeeding the country's vision for the greater interest of the people in the land.

(The writer is Disaster Risk Reduction Expert and
Development Lawyer).

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