Bangladesh to slash its own climate adaptation fund

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:30 GMT

Author: Syful Islam

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Bangladesh plans to cut spending from its own budget on climate change adaptation and rely more in the future on funds from donors, government officials said.

The low-lying South Asian nation, considered one of the countries most at risk from climate impacts such as sea level rise, worsening erosion and erratic rainfall, has been a leader in the developing world in committing its own funds to climate adaptation. Officials allocated $320 million from the country’s budget over five years to a domestic climate adaptation fund, said Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith in a budget speech to parliament.

But “this allocation will be reduced in the future and instead steps will be taken to increase (funding to) the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund, established with the assistance of our development partners,” Muhith said in a June 5 speech. That fund has so far received $187 million from international donors, with some of the money going to adaptation projects.

The minister proposed no new funding for the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF), the country’s own adaptation funding initiative, in the next budget.

The change comes as part of an update to the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009.

MISUSE OF FUNDS

Critics of the decision said the change in strategy comes in part because of questions raised about the alleged misuse of funds from the country’s adaptation trust fund, and the government’s desire to avoid further controversy in the future.

Last October, the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International said it had found evidence of political influence, nepotism and corruption in the way funds were allocated.

“A significant amount of money had been allocated for the BCCTF in the last five years but the spending was poor. Besides, the way the fund was managed has raised questions for many, which led no fresh allocation in the new budget,” Shamsul Alam, a member of the Bangladesh’s Planning Commission, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over telephone.

He said one advantage of relying on donor-funded climate adaptation projects it that they help transfer expertise and modern technology on adaptation, something Bangladesh in some cases lacks. “Capacity building of people on the ground is a must to adapt to climate change impacts,” he said.

Asked if donors might feel less willing to channel money to Bangladesh as a result of the government cutback in its own spending, he noted that in the new budget the government has imposed a “green tax” on industries that do not have a waste treatment plant.

That change “proves Bangladesh’s sincerity to climate change adaptation and keeping the environment free of pollution,” he said.

Atiq Rahman, executive director of Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview that Bangladesh still has a lot to do to adapt to climate change, particularly as it is so vulnerable.

He said the southern part of the country is particularly vulnerable, with 20 million people already lacking sufficient food, safe drinking water and sanitation systems. Drought-prone northern districts will also need large-scale climate adaptation programmes, he said.

DISCOURAGING DONORS?

Rahman said he thinks the government’s decision to cut its own spending on climate adaptation is the wrong one.

“The BCCTF should be kept well funded and replenished to encourage donors to pay more in the resilience fund. Unless you pay a portion on your own, why will donors feel interested to pay for your adaptation programmes?” he asked.

But greater transparency needs to be put in place in the spending of climate funds, to ensure the money goes to support people in the most need of help.

Hasan Mahmud, a member of parliament and Bangladesh’s former environment minister said adaptation projects costing less than $25 million will suffer the most if Bangladesh’s adaptation trust fund has no resources.

Donors for the most part only sponsor climate resilience projects larger than $25 million, he said in a telephone interview, but many of the projects Bangladesh needs most cost in the range of $5 million to $10 million.

“Big projects are not needed everywhere,” he said.

The government’s decision to create its own adaptation trust fund was highly praised by donor agencies and countries and a major encouragement for them to channel money to Bangladesh, he said.

“Donors felt (the depth of) Bangladesh’s seriousness about adaptation, despite not being responsible for climate change, following formation of the fund. Now the donors may get a wrong message and raise questions about whether we need any more adaptation funds since we have stopped spending from our own,” Mahmud warned.

Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]

http://www.trust.org/item/20140618092711-072sy/?source=hpeditorial&siteVersion=mobile#

Bangladesh moves to clean up dirty climate spending

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 12 Feb 2014 12:19 PM

Author: Syful Islam

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Amid allegations of misuse of climate funds, Bangladesh is formulating a plan to coordinate expenditures across agencies and ensure greater transparency and accountability in climate change-related activities.

Officials said the move is part of efforts to ensure appropriate and effective use of funds in offsetting the impacts of climate change on Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable nations to the global warming.

“In the fiscal budget, funds are being allocated for climate change-related projects for almost all the ministries. But the spending lacks coordination thus (it is) sometimes being misused which now we are trying to bring under strict regulations,” Rafiqul Islam, the joint chief of the Planning Commission, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said huge amounts of money are being spent in a scattered way which causes frequent repetition and duplication of projects. “Several organisations embark on the same types of projects, while many areas remain unattended,” he noted.

Islam said if a “climate fiscal framework” is formulated and properly followed, agencies would have a clearer idea what projects are in place and how much money is involved with each of them.

DEVELOPMENT SPENDING

The government has already changed the format of development project proposals (DPP) to include climate change issues.

“From now on, while preparing a DPP for a project, it has to be mentioned if any climate change-related components are there or not. That will help in keeping track of how much money is being spent in what types of climate change-related projects,” Islam said.

He said countries like Indonesia and Cambodia already have in place climate fiscal frameworks that help them more easily tracking spending on climate change programmes.

The Bangladesh framework is being formulated under a project on “Poverty, Environment and Climate Mainstreaming”, funded by the United Nations Development Programme.

Currently, Bangladesh spends money on climate change projects from two major government and donor-sponsored funds.

The Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) is a fund operated by the Bangladesh government, development partners and the World Bank. A separate Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) is financed solely by the government from public funds.

Alongside the two major funds, there is spending to reduce climate change impacts by various non-government organisations, foreign sources, and even private households.

As of June 2013, developed nations had made climate finance pledges of $594 million to Bangladesh, although much of the money has yet to be delivered. In addition, the South Asian nation had received $147 million out of $149 million promised by a group of wealthy states through BCCRF, the multi-donor fund administered by the World Bank.

NO CLEAR SPENDING PICTURE

Rezai Karim Khondker, a professor at the Dhaka School of Economics and head of the team building the climate fiscal framework, said so far there has been no clear calculation of how much money was being spent on climate change and from which sources.

“The framework aims at bringing coordination in climate change-related spending,” he said.

Khondker said a large amount of money was needed to combat the impacts of climate change on low-lying Bangladesh. The framework will help keep a tally of the sources of funds and also of where those are being spent, and for what purpose.

Experts and various civil society organisations have raised questions about transparency in climate fund spending and produced evidence of mismanagement of money. The Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International (TIB) last October released a study on climate fund governance which revealed political influence, nepotism and corruption in the selection of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to carry out work on the ground.

It said some groups paid 20 percent of their allocation as “commission” in order to be chosen for adaptation projects.

Transparency International Bangladesh Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told Thomson Reuters Foundation that civil society organisations have been demanding transparency and accountability in climate fund spending from the very beginning.

“There should be policy directives for spending funds in need-based projects. Transparency has to be ensured at the implementation level so that people who are in need benefit,” he said.

BASIS FOR COMPENSATION?

Iftekharuzzaman said industrialised nations, who are primarily responsible for climate change, should offer compensation for countries hardest hit by climate impacts, but are unlikely to do so without transparency in how funds are being spent.

“Unless the good governance of funds is ensured, they won’t cooperate,” he said.

He said participation of civil society and experts needs to be increased in governance of climate funding, and that people with conflicts of interest need to be kept out of policy decisions.

Ainun Nishat, a noted environmentalist and vice chancellor of Brac University, agreed that monitoring mechanisms for climate spending have to be made stronger to ensure transparency, and that the decision to create a climate fiscal framework was “timely.”

“Steps have to be taken to eliminate the causes of slow release of funds by the donors,” he said.

Nishat said information on spending of climate funds and on projects underway should be made publicly available via websites to help reduce misuse of funds.

Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Climate fiscal framework on cards to coordinate use of funds

21 Jan, 2014

Syful Islam

The government is formulating a climate fiscal framework to coordinate spending in the climate change-related activities, official sources said.

The move is taken to ensure appropriate and effective use of funds in offsetting the impacts of climate change on Bangladesh, one of the countries most vulnerable to global warming.

Officials said presently a significant amount of money is being spent for different types of climate change-related projects. The government, non-government organisations, foreign sources, and even private households are also spending money in this connection.

They said since there is no coordination in the spending, repetition and duplication of projects is frequently occurring. Several bodies are embarking on the same types of projects, while many areas remain unattended.

Joint chief of the general economics division under the Planning Commission, Rafiqul Islam, told the FE that funds were being spent in a scattered way for offsetting the impacts of climate change.

“In the fiscal budget, funds are being allocated for climate change-related projects for almost all the ministries. There is no coordination in spending. We are formulating the climate fiscal framework to bring about coordination between them,” he said.

Once the framework is formulated and properly followed, agencies concerned would be able to know easily about how many and what types of projects are in place and how much money is involved with them, Mr Islam said.

He said countries like Cambodia and Indonesia have formulated climate fiscal frameworks.

Mr Islam also said changes have been brought to the format of development project proposal (DPP), in which the issue of climate change has been incorporated.

“While preparing a DPP for a project, it has to be mentioned from now on if any climate change-related components are there or not. That will help in keeping track on how much money is being spent in what types of climate change-related projects,” he said.

The climate fiscal framework is being formulated under a project titled ‘Poverty, Environment and Climate Mainstreaming,’ funded by the United Nations Development Programme.

Prof Dr Rezai Karim Khondker of Dhaka School of Economics, the team leader of the climate fiscal framework study, told the FE Monday that there was no calculation on how much money was being spent and from which sources.

The framework aims at coordination of the climate change-related spending, he said.

Mr Khondker said a large amount of money was needed to combat the impacts of climate change on Bangladesh, a low-lying country.

The framework will keep a tally of the sources of funds and also of where those are being spent for what purpose, he added.

Presently, Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) and Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) are funding major climate change-related projects.

The BCCRF is a financing mechanism operated by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), development partners and the World Bank to address the impacts of climate change. On the other hand, BCCTF is being solely financed by the GoB from public exchequer to carry out activities to offset the impacts of climate change.

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/01/21/14725

Impacts of climate change mount coastal people’s hardship

Syful Islam

The impacts of climate change are mounting hardship of Bangladesh’s coastal people where calamities like cyclones, tidal surge, and river bank erosion nowadays hitting in increased number.

People living in these coastal areas are considered as the most vulnerable to the climate change impacts. Most of the people living there are poor and some are at the extreme poor segment.

Two major cyclones — Sidr and Aila — which hit Bangladesh coasts in 2007 and in 2009, had destroyed roads and embankments, washed away homes, lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. These extreme weather events which are considered as impacts of climate change have deepened the misery of coastal inhabitants.

Experts said agony of poor coastal people turned manifold as they are mainly dependent on natural resources for living and livelihoods. The calamities, when hit them, first damage the natural resources further weakening their strength.

With the impacts of climate change starting to be more visible day by day, scientists apprehend that a big portion of coastal areas of low-lying nations will be inundated because of sea level rise.

They said in Bangladesh a 10cm rise in sea level could inundate 2.0 per cent of arable lands by 2020 and 10 per cent lands by 2050 which may cause displacement of 15 million coastal residents.

Non-government organisations working in coastal districts estimate that nearly 5.0 million people living there are at high risk of either being displaced or experiencing extreme impacts of climate change in the near future.

Sea level rise

Sea level rise is a major concern for low lying nations including Bangladesh. Scientists blame manmade hazards for global warming which melts ice in the Himalayan and Antarctic. The incased volume of ice melting causes sea level rise which poses threat to existence of countries like Maldives and inundation of a big portion of Bangladesh territory.

The 2007 report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said a one-meter rise in sea levels may swamp 17 percent of Bangladeshi low lying areas and displace 20 million people by 2050.

A new scientific report released by the World Bank Group in June 2013 said among the South Asian nations Bangladesh will be most affected by an expected 2° Celsius temperature rise in the next decades. It said if temperature is up by 2.5 ° Celsius the flood areas in Bangladesh could increase by as much as 29 per cent.

The IPCC in its Fifth Assessment Report (released on September 27, 2013) projected that by 2100 the sea-level may rise by 28-98 cm, which is 50 per cent higher than the old projections of 18-59 cm when comparing the same emission level and time periods.

Livelihoods under severe threat

Hit by an increased number of disastrous events the lives and livelihoods of coastal people are under severe threat apart from loss of homes and lands. Especially, as saline water enters into the lands and ponds during cyclone and tidal surges, the lands lose their capacity to produce crops while sources of drinking water become polluted.

Due to excessive salinity in the lands, the farmers lose crops frequently which further weaken them financially alongside threatening food security. In most of the coastal districts farmers can produce rice once a year. When a farmer loses a crop once a year, he has no option but to strive with family members.

The other way of earning bread and butter for coastal people is fishing in the rivers and sea. But the increased numbers of cyclones and storms have strongly affected the profession as staying in the sea become highly risky for life while fishes are becoming unavailable day by day.

A study carried out by Campaign for Sustainable Rural Development (CSRL) found that in last 30 years the intensity and frequency of storms had increased by three times. During the 2007-2010 period Bangladesh has had 10 to 14 storms severe enough for a Signal No 3 warning.

Thirty years ago, just four or five such warnings were issued each year. This year the meteorological department also issued Signal No 3 warning for Bangladeshi river and sea ports in an increased number meaning that higher numbers of storms have formed this year compared to last year.

And when a Signal No 3 warning is issued, fishing trawlers in the sea are advised to return to the shore immediately meaning a loss of several thousands of taka in each trip.

Besides, the fishermen nowadays frequently talk about getting fewer numbers of fishes both in the sea and rivers. Many fishermen families starve both in off and peak seasons due to meagre earnings.

Lack of work triggers massive migration

The impacts of climate change are causing displacement of thousands of people from the coastal areas. The 1998 floods made 45 million people homeless while the cyclone Sidr displaced 650,000 in 2007, Aila 842,000 and Bijli 20,000 in 2009.
Failing to ensure livelihoods and losing living places, people from coastal districts are continuously migrating to nearest cities and towns as well as to the already overcrowded Dhaka. Estimations show that every year over half a million people pour into the capital majority of whom are believed to be climate migrants.

External migration is also taking place as many are forced to flee the country failing to repay the loans after losing everything to the river bank erosion and major cyclones. After cyclone Aila hit the area, around 50 per cent people of a village in Satkhira district left it, a handsome of them also migrated to neighbouring countries to secure a living.

In Southkhali union under Bagerhat district almost 30 per cent residents left the area for elsewhere after the cyclone Sidr struck it.

After reaching the cities these climate refugees start living in inhuman conditions in the slums in absence of civic facilities. These slum people suffer from various diseases and children living there suffer from malnutrition and lack of education.

They enter into the severely occupied job market but fail to ensure food for even twice a day. Many of them also start begging in the roadside, while some engage themselves in prostitution to earn foods and living.

Due to the increased number of migration, nowadays new makeshift rooms are being built in the slums everyday while some live in the street further raising public nuisance in the cities. These people, having no family planning measures, also cause baby boom in the already over-crowded urban areas.

http://greenbarta.com/index.php/climate-change/144-impacts-of-climate-change-mount-coastal-people’s-hardship.html

Survey begins to find new route thru’ Sundarbans

Vessels now doing harm to forest, wildlife

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Syful Islam

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has launched a survey to find out a route alternative to the present one used by vessels through the Sundarbans harming the mangrove forest’s flora and fauna, sources have said.

A ship has now anchored at the Bogi point, close to the Sundarbans, from where the officials concerned of the BIWTA and the forest department are jointly conducting the survey.

“The survey is underway to find out an alternative route for the vessels plying through the Sundarbans as the present route is causing harm to the mangrove forest,” Director (Hydrographic) of BIWTA Mahbub Alam told the FE.

He said a high-powered team comprising officials from the ministry of shipping (MoS), the BIWTA and the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) would visit the spot Saturday to supervise the survey.

The MoEF early this year gave the MoS environmental clearance for letting vessels ply the Rayenda-Shapla-Harintana-Chandpai route through the Sundarbans as the regular Mongla-Ghoshiakhali route became unusable for ships due to its poor navigability.

However, instead of using that particular route, everyday more than 25 oil tankers and other vessels are plying the 60-kilometre-long Sannasi-Rayenda-Sharankhola-Dudhmukhi-Harintana-Andarmanik route further inside the mangrove forest to shorten the journey by two hours and lower the expenses.

Environmentalists expressed grave concerns that plying of such a large number of vessels through the Sundarbans was doing harm to the mangrove forest and its wildlife.

They said the oil tankers and the cargo vessels passing through the forest with high sound and blowing hydraulic horns were disturbing its tranquillity and thus the free movement of wildlife in the sanctuary. So the biodiversity of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was being threatened.

They also said the unabated and unauthorised passage of vessels deep inside the forest was doing colossal harm to the ecosystem of the Sundarbans.

They also noted that the high sound of hydraulic horns was also disturbing food consumption, plying and breeding of the inhabitants of the forest.

In such a situation months back the government formed a committee comprising officials from the MoEF and the MoS to resolve the problem by choosing an alternative route for the vessels. A subcommittee was also formed on September 17 to assess the depth and suitability of the alternative routes proposed by the forest department.

Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asked the MoEF and the MoS to take necessary steps for saving the Sundarbans by ensuring plying of the vessels on the particular route already approved by the authorities concerned, but abandoned due to its loss of navigability.

It also directed the MoS to carry out necessary dredging to restore navigability of the approved route.

The PMO said the current short route used by vessels under the pretext of saving costs and reducing distance posed a threat to the ecology of the Sundarbans.

Of the 10,000 square kilometres of the Sundarbans, according to officials, 6,500 square kilometres are considered naturally sensitive.

A senior MoEF official said the Sundarbans was already under a threat from the climate change. The sea level rise squeezed habitat for the wildlife of the mangrove forest.

Quoting some scientific predictions, he said about 28 centimetres of sea level rise may eliminate nearly 96 per cent of the remaining habitat for Royal Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans. “So, we need to be more cautious about saving the forest and its wildlife as much as we can.”

“The forest has been battered by the two super cyclones Aila and Sidr. We should not further destroy it by creating manmade hazards,” the official added.

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMTBfMjZfMTNfMV8xXzE4ODAyNw==

Watchdog finds malpractice in Bangladesh climate finance

Tue, 15 Oct 2013

Author: Syful Islam

DHAKA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An international watchdog has uncovered malpractice in the management of Bangladesh’s climate change funding, finding that some groups paid 20 percent of their allocation as “commission” in order to be chosen for adaptation projects.

On Oct. 3, the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International (TIB) released a study on climate fund governance that revealed political influence, nepotism and corruption in the selection of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to carry out work on the ground.

It described how the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a state-owned ‘not-for-profit’ company that funds micro-credit programmes, had picked 63 NGOs to receive grants from the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF), set up to channel money budgeted by the government to help communities adapt to climate shifts.

From 2011 onwards, TIB investigated the selection process, funding and project progress for 55 NGOs out of the 63. Researchers were unable to trace 10 of the NGOs. They also discovered that the heads of 13 NGOs were involved in politics, and that nine projects were awarded as a result of political influence.

“It is alleged (to us) that some NGOs received projects through political influence, by paying commissions (20 percent of total project value), by engaging associate NGOs with connections with policy makers for implementing the project in partnership with the approved NGO, and by colluding with decision-makers and providing undue benefits, such as establishing a computer centre in the electoral constituency of the concerned official,” TIB researchers said.

Only 17 of the NGOs had prior experience of working directly on natural disasters, environment and climate change, according to the report. Presenting the research, assistant coordinator Mohua Rauf said most of the NGOs chosen were inexperienced, lacked the necessary infrastructure and had questionable credibility.

Funding allocations do not appear to be based on need, she added. Among the districts worst-affected by climate change, Khulna got only 6.5 percent of the total, while Satkhira received only 1.2 percent and Bagerhat nothing. But districts that are much less affected – Tangail, Gaibandha, Rajshahi and Nowabganj – were awarded a large number of projects.

Rauf said the PKSF, which manages the trust fund, did not monitor, inspect or review the progress of project implementation. This could be due to a lack of funding to carry out the work, as the body has not received any money from the BCCTF for that purpose, she added.

‘SOME DIFFICULTIES’

The PKSF hit back at the TIB investigation after it was reported in different media outlets.

“Initially, (the) government selected 131 NGOs from over 4,000 applications. Later on PKSF was entrusted with the NGO verification and finance. Finally, 63 NGOs were selected. During the procedure, PKSF investigated (the) existence of the NGOs, their capacity, previous activities/experience etc. Only those NGOs which fulfilled the above criteria were selected for funding,” it said in a statement.

TIB’s finding that 10 NGOs did not exist was incorrect, the PKSF added.

“According to the existing terms and conditions, selected NGOs are at liberty to engage partners for project implementation. Since climate change adaptation is a new concept, we found some NGOs are facing some difficulties in implementing the project,” it said.

The PKSF’s fund allocation and selection criteria “are very rigid and transparent”, it continued. “Strict rules are followed in the entire process. There is no scope for any unfair means or corrupt practice in PKSF activities,” it said.

TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told Thomson Reuters Foundation projects should be selected based on local need.

“Political influence, nepotism and other malpractices should not get consideration in project selection,” he said. “Projects should be undertaken in the areas where people are more affected and vulnerable to climate change impacts.”

In addition, project transparency and accountability has to be ensured during implementation, he said. If that doesn’t happen, international funds may stop flowing, he warned.

Up to June this year, developed nations made climate finance pledges of $594 million to Bangladesh, although much of the money has yet to be delivered. In addition, the South Asian nation has received $147 million out of $149 million promised by a group of wealthy states through the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF), a multi-donor fund administered by the World Bank.

“We get money from (the) national and international level for adaptation. If we can utilise it effectively, more funds will be channelled in the near future. If the malpractices are not eliminated, donors won’t show interest,” Iftekharuzzaman said.

‘IT’S A VERY EASY JOB’

Ruhul Matin, executive director of Sagarika Samaj Unnayan Sangstha (Sagarika Social Development Organisation), said he had submitted a project proposal for Tk 30 million ($386,400) to help 5,000 fishermen in the southeastern districts of Noakhali, Laxmipur and Feni.

“I was given Tk 3 million, and we are now supporting 500 fishermen,” he said. “We helped them elevate houses, provided some trees for forestation and lifejackets, and gave (them) some training for income-generation activities.”

His organisation is an implementation partner for PKSF-funded projects, whose progress is being closely monitored by PKSF officials, he added.

Selim Chowdhury, project coordinator for Samahar, an NGO that was allocated Tk 3 million to plant trees in the capital, said his organisation had previously carried out garbage management work in the city with the Dhaka City Corporation.

The TIB research team said this NGO had been selected for climate change funding because of political influence. Chowdhury denied this.

“It’s a very easy job – anyone, experienced or inexperienced, can do the work. We will plant trees on two sides of the roads in some areas of Dhaka,” he said.

NEED TO SHOW RIGOUR

Ainun Nishat, an environmentalist and vice chancellor of BRAC University in Dhaka, told Thomson Reuters Foundation the BCCTF is governed by a high-powered committee comprising several ministers, government secretaries and experts.

“But you can get nothing online about the NGO projects under the BCCTF, which does not reflect transparency and accountability,” said Nishat.

The PKSF is also helping select NGOs for the disbursement of 10 percent of the money in the donor-backed climate change resilience fund. In this case, information about the NGOs, selection criteria, project details and implementation progress are available online, Nishat added.

“No matter whether the funds come from donors or the government exchequer, transparency in the selection of NGOs and projects must be ensured,” he said.

Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, an NGO that works on sustainable development issues, said Bangladesh has attracted international sympathy for its vulnerability to climate change, as well as it efforts to tackle the problem.

“In the near future, there will be greater allocation from the global sources of funding. Bangladesh needs to demonstrate its capacity to absorb funds through technically sound projects which have a high degree of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“It is in our interest to build that capacity and rigour as soon as we can,” he added.

Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]

http://www.trust.org/item/20131015100349-6sbou/

Climate change hits Ctg, Mongla ports hard

Wednesday, 02 October 2013

By Syful Islam

Impacts of climate change are frequently disrupting operations in the country’s two seaports causing huge financial losses, port officials have said.

Bangladesh is among the countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change where storms, cyclones, flash floods, poor rainfall, droughts, and river bank erosion have become increasingly visible nowadays.

Officials of the Chittagong port, in a recent report said that being located at the coast of the Bay of Bengal the port is exposed to cyclones and storm surges and highly vulnerable to tidal surges.

“Most of the disastrous events the port experienced are related to climate change and there has been phenomenal increase in their frequency, severity and unpredictability in the recent times.

“The most severe impacts have been visualised in terms of sea level rise leading to submergence of port areas,” Syed Farhad Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) wrote to the Shipping Ministry recently.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a report in 2007 said a one-metre rise in sea levels may swamp 17 per cent of Bangladesh’s low-lying areas and displace 20 million people by 2050. The IPCC in its Fifth Assessment Report, released on September 27, projected that by 2100 the sea-level might rise by 28-98 centimetres.

The World Bank Group in June this year said among the South Asian nations Bangladesh will be most affected by an expected 2° Celsius temperature rise in the next decades.

It said if temperature is up by 2.5 ° Celsius, the flood areas in Bangladesh could increase by as much as 29 per cent.

Mr Ahmed said occasionally the port operational works suffer badly and sustains damages and losses.

He told the FE that the canals and low-lying areas of the port area are being submerged even in high tide disrupting activities.

Citing some examples Mr Ahmed said during the cyclone Mahasen, the activities in Chittagong port were halted for 9 hours. The port operations remained suspended for over three days during the cyclone of 1991.

Port operations were also disrupted during major cyclones like Sidr and Aila which stuck Bangladesh’s coasts in 2007 and 2009.

Director of Mongla Port Authority Hawlader Zakir Hossain told the FE the port’s advantage is that it is located some 130 kilometres from the seashore.

“But natural disaster often disrupts activities of the port in one way or another. The cyclones Sidr and Aila had halted the port operations as those hit the nearest area with fierce velocity,” he said.

Sources said the CPA in 1992 had formulated cyclone guidelines to help contain the effects of such disasters and keep the port operational immediately after any major cyclone strikes. The cyclone disaster preparedness and post cyclone rehabilitation plan, initiated by the port is a useful tool for disaster management.

The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Secretariat is preparing a plan of action for disaster management which the CPA thinks will help establish a regional disaster management system to reduce risks.

Most of Bangladesh’s export-import activities take place through the country’s two seaports.

http://fe-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMTBfMDJfMTNfMV8yXzE4NTUwMg==

Environmentalists dismayed by deforestation in Bangladesh

Thu, 26 Sep 2013

Author: Syful Islam

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At a time when climate change scientists and activists are calling for large-scale forest protection and reforestation to counter the impacts of climate change, the government of Bangladesh is cutting down large areas of forest to clear land it says is needed for human settlement and border security posts.

The low-lying country is among the countries most affected by climate change, suffering from poor rainfall, droughts, cyclones, river bank erosion and flash floods. These hazards have become increasingly frequent, exacerbating poverty and triggering massive migration to the country’s cities.

Although Bangladesh has received praise for its disaster preparedness and for its pioneering efforts to adapt to climate change, the government has raised concerns among environmentalists and others by taking steps to clear forests, including on protected land.

NEW BORDER POST

In the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, which borders Myanmar, officials of the Bangladesh Border Guard have applied to the ministry of the environment and forests to take over 40 acres of forest, 90 percent of which is reserved woodland, in order to make room for a security post for a battalion of the guard. The ministry of home affairs says the post is needed to prevent illegal immigration by ethnic Rohingyas from Myanmar, as well as smuggling.

Even though the land has not yet been officially allocated by the environment ministry, trees have already been felled.

The forest department had established an arboretum on 20 acres of the land that is now being cleared, and had plans to expand it up to 200 acres. Some of the land was also designated for a plantation of 37,500 trees under the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund, a financing mechanism coordinated by the government. The plantation project has had to be relocated.

RESETTLEMENT HOUSING

The government is also establishing a settlement for several thousand people in the Gazipur area, some 30 km (19 miles) from the capital, Dhaka, for which the Capital Development Authority has acquired 650 hectares (1,600 acres) of forest and agricultural land since 1995.

Protests by local people and environmental activists prevented authorities until recently from cutting down trees and taking full possession of the land, but since May of this year the trees have been felled and authorities have begun developing the land for housing.

Hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut down and wetlands filled with sand, according to Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Paribesh Bachao Andolon (Movement to Save the Environment). The environmental impacts of the deforestation of such a vast area were not considered, Khan said in a phone interview.

“Saving nature is very much crucial to keep the earth liveable for human beings. Much more tree plantation is also needed to offset the impacts of climate change,” Khan said.

Civil society organisations and environmental activists are protesting the destruction of forests, a move they say breaches environmental laws and is contrary to the government’s own policies.

Activists have held protests on land that is being deforested, as well as in Dhaka. Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association has filed a case in the High Court seeking the cancellation of the Gazipur resettlement project. A bench of the court suspended a previous order allowing the government to carry on the project. A final resolution of the case is still pending.

MANGROVES UNDER THREAT

The Bangladesh portion of the Sundarbans mangrove forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also under threats from deforestation by encroachers.

A study published last month by the government’s Soil Research Development Institute found that some 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) of land in the Sundarbans were deforested by individuals and businesses between 2000 and 2010, representing a loss of 8.3 percent of the total area of the world’s largest mangrove forest. The land was mainly converted to shrimp farms, according to the study.

The mangrove forest helped protect populations in coastal Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts during the massive cyclones Sidr and Aila, which hit in 2007 and in 2009, said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, a non-governmental organization that works on sustainable development issues.

According to Rahman, had there had been no forests in these districts, the damage from the two cyclones could have been much greater.

Ainun Nishat, an environmentalist and vice chancellor of Brac University in Dhaka, expressed sadness over the destruction of forest for the border battalion post.

“We need massive afforestation to cope with the impacts of climate change. We should try to save the forests as much as we can,” Nishat said.

According to Nishat, the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more evident.

“We have to be more prepared to face unusual happenings in the coming months and years,” he said.

Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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