Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to cyclones and floods, particularly in the country’s coastal areas. Cyclones and associated storm surges and floods have led to almost all of the nearly 520,000 natural disaster deaths recorded over the past 40 years. These events also have the potential to cause significant economic damage. Cyclone Sidr in 2007 cost an estimated $1.7 billion in damages and losses according to a GFDRR–supported post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA). The country’s extreme vulnerability to hydro-meteorological hazards, including storm-induced tidal flooding, is likely to increase as a result of climate change.
Bangladesh is also located in a seismically active and high-risk region. Dhaka, a fast-growing urban center, is one of the 20 cities most vulnerable to earthquakes in the world. High population density, compounded by rapid and unplanned urbanization, have increased vulnerability to seismic risks.
The Government of Bangladesh has taken significant steps to strengthen disaster risk management (DRM) efforts. These include:
- Endorsing the DRM Act (2012), which outlines the country’s legal framework for disaster management; and
- Mainstreaming DRM into a number of development plans, including the National Sustainable Development Strategy (2010-2021). This strategy recommends increased and cross-cutting investment in DRM.
With its proactive hydrological policies and programs, such as the 2007 Emergency Cyclone Recovery and Restoration Project, Bangladesh is often cited globally as a positive example for investment in DRM. In contrast, managing seismic risk has not been a government priority, in part because the threat of earthquakes is less visible and harder to predict.
To further advance the DRM agenda, priorities include:
- Ensuring that all sectoral investments take into account resilience to climate change and natural disasters; and,
- Increasing the resilience of the population to natural hazards in urban and coastal areas. This includes strengthening systems to reduce the vulnerability of future construction projects to disasters.
GFDRR has helped enable DRM efforts in Bangladesh since 2007. The majority of support has been focused on post-disaster reconstruction and risk reduction following 2007’s Cyclone Sidr, as well as building urban resilience to seismic risk.
GFDRR supported a PDNA following Cyclone Sidr, which identified priority areas for recovery reconstruction and led to new World Bank projects, some of which were backed by GFDRR’s financial and technical support. One project with $109 million in World Bank financing is helping the Government of Bangladesh facilitate restoration and recovery for livelihoods and damaged infrastructure. Another project with $375 million in World Bank financing is reducing future risk by improving coastal embankments.
GFDRR has also collaborated with the Government of Bangladesh to build urban resilience in Dhaka and Sylhet. Launched in 2012, the project has raised awareness of seismic risk through a participatory approach that ensures risk ownership amongst government officials and decision makers. Activities included the development of a GEODASH platform for managing and visualizing hazard and vulnerability data and contributions towards a Risk Management Master Plan for Dhaka as well as a National Earthquake and Risk Strategy. The project has improved emergency management systems and equipment and enhanced building construction, design, permitting, and oversight systems for government agencies. It has also informed $170 million in investment financing under the Bangladesh Urban Resilience Project, which will continue to strengthen government capacity for emergency response and vulnerability reduction.
GFDRR anticipates continued demand for support from the Government of Bangladesh in the following areas:
- Ongoing initiatives in disaster risk financing and insurance;
- Ongoing initiatives for managing the impact of climate changing on coastal areas, including storm surges and saline intrusion;
- Strengthening urban resilience to floods and seismic risks in priority infrastructure sectors; and,
- Developing climatic hazard maps at the sub-district level in flood, saline, and drought prone areas.