Located on the Indian sub-continent, Bangladesh straddles the largest river delta on earth. With more than 1.000 people per km², it has the highest demographic density of all territorial states on earth: A surface area of 147.570 km² is inhabited by an estimated 162 million people. More than 74% live inrural areas. 50% of are surviving on less than 1 US$ per day.
Because of it’s topography (elevations over 5m above sea level are rare in the delta), Bangladesh regularly faces floods, which leave 30 to 60% of its territory under water during the summer monsoon.
In addition, one to three annual tropical windstorms (cyclones) that hit primarily the southern parts of the country often cause flash floods and leave behind vast devastation. By way of example, a cyclone in 1970 produced a death toll between 300.000 – 500.000. Another cyclone in 1991 killed 138.000 and destroyed the homes of 10 million people.
Lack of land and the search for a livelihood causes many landless people to settle on the cyclone-prone coast, where they fight for survival on theflood-prone islands.
Climate change will cause the number of cyclones and floods to increase even further during the next years.
The islands of Hatiya and Nijhum Dwip in the Bay of Bengal, with an overall population of 452.463, are known to be a high risk zone. With no more than dykes to protect parts of it from rising sea or river water level, the low lying land mass is prone to frequent and devastating cyclones and floods. Erosion is another majort hreat: Every year, Hatiya loses at least 1 km² of land and people lose their property. The 1991 cyclone killed around 3.000 people in Hatiya alone. In May 2009, cyclone Aila took another 129 lives. Floods regularly destroy people’s huts and houses, ravage their fields and annihilate their crops. Some cyclone shelters were built to protect the community, but their number is far from sufficient for the populous area.
The lack of awareness among the population concerning Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Management (DM) as well as unreliable Early Warning Systems enhance the vulnerability of the people living in these high risk zones. Their life, livelihood and property are at constant risk during the regular floods and recurrent cyclones.
Insufficient implementation of existing Preparedness and other Disaster Management initiatives and Plans from government side, unclear roles and responsibilities of governmental bodies and committees and the lack of communication and coordination among these stakeholders further add to the problem.
Team leader of four participating consortium partners, I elaborated an integrated early recovery project proposal to be submitted to ECHO for funding.
The main purpose of the proposed action is to contribute to the recovery of living conditions of the most vulnerable groups, affected by a tropical storm in October 2012, and to strenghten their resilience against negative impacts of recurrent natural disasters.
The beneficiaries lost their makeshift shelters and productive assets during the storm and are left without own means to recover – often indebting themselves in order to survive. The chosen approach combines recovery and resilience building measures, while targeting the sectors of shelter, WASH, livelihood and DRR/CCA in an integrated way.
Beneficiaries will be supported to construct shelter, latrines and wells that are protected to a certain extent against impacts of storm and flood. At the same time, and in order to strengthen their livelihoods, conditional cash grants will be distributed, associated with trainings to improve income generation on household level. Furthermore, the followed approach seeks to improve disaster preparedness and response capacity of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) through training and institutional capacity building.