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 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. The country’s extreme vulnerability to hydro-meteorological hazards, including storm-induced tidal flooding, is likely to increase due to 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 all sectoral investments consider 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. Most support has focused on post-disaster reconstruction, risk reduction, and building urban resilience.
GFDRR is providing ongoing technical support and capacity building to the Government of Bangladesh. Activities are supporting several technical areas, including provision of ICT for weather and climate services; assessing user needs for weather, water, and climate analysis; and enhancing technical understanding of instruments, modeling, and use of models for generating weather, water, and climate information. These are helping Bangladesh to facilitate investment activities to strengthen weather, water, and climate services, and support investments in ICT technologies for modernizing services and enhancing human resource capacity.
GFDRR has collaborated with the Government of Bangladesh to build urban resilience in Dhaka and Sylhet since 2012. Activities have raised awareness of seismic risk through a participatory approach that ensures risk ownership among government officials and decision makers. Activities have developed a GEODASH platform for managing and visualizing hazard and vulnerability data. They have also contributed toward a Risk Management Master Plan for Dhaka and a National Earthquake and Risk Strategy, which improved emergency management systems and equipment, and enhanced building construction, design, permitting, and oversight systems for government agencies. This has also informed $170 million in investment financing under the World Bank’s Bangladesh Urban Resilience Project, which will continue to strengthen government capacity for emergency response and vulnerability reduction.
Previously, in 2008, GFDRR supported a post-disaster needs assessment following Cyclone Sidr, which identified priority areas for recovery reconstruction and informed multiple World Bank projects. 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 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 change on coastal areas, including storm surges and saline intrusion;
- Strengthening urban resilience to floods and seismic risks in priority infrastructure sectors; and,
- Strengthening institutional capacity for hydromet monitoring, forecasting, and delivery of quality climate services.