Author: Pantho Rahaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Climate-vulnerable countries should join forces to combat disaster risks by sharing information and seeking common solutions, experts at a community-based adaptation conference said this week.
“Countries, facing similar kinds of climatic hazards, could share their own experiences of risk and adaptation policy as an allied group to fight natural disasters together,” said Ainun Nishat, a leading Bangladeshi climate and water expert, at the Seventh International Community-Based Adaptation Conference, organized by the International Institute for Environment and Development.
Countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Maldives, which share similar coastal areas, for instance, might benefit by planning together to deal with hazards such as flooding and storms, the experts said.
“A joint strategy involving sharing of data, process and approach could be a viable move,” said Nishat.
In particular, South Asian nations could learn from Bangladesh’s adaptation policies, the experts said. The country has had significant success in reducing cyclone deaths using fortified storm shelters and early warning systems.
“Bangladesh can be the role model for adaptation methods because lessons have been learned and applied here,” said Robert Juhkam, deputy country head for the U.N. Development Programme in Bangladesh.
What he called the country’s “own unique” adaptation methods “have delivered results,” he said.
Nishat agreed that “if cyclone centre establishments or early alert systems are the priorities, then this country can provide the best examples.”
Negussie Kefeni, an Ethiopian speaker at the conference, noted that both coastal and inland communities are at risk of climate impacts in many countries, and that all countries needed to act.
“As climate change impact reaches all nations, every country should make their contribution to save our world,” he said.
POLITICAL WILL KEY
Quick decision-making processes, supported by political will, are crucial elements for a sustainable adaptation policy, the experts said.
Laura Bill, a UNICEF representative, said adaptation is an ongoing natural process for most coastal people. She underscored the need to focus on a range of needs of climate-affected people.
Bangladesh Minister for Environment and Forest, Hasan Mahmud, said both governments and non-governmental organizations need to be part of planning, as both respond during natural calamities. But affected people, most importantly, need to be consulted, he said.
Among Bangladesh’s policies for dealing with coastal emergencies is the Fruits, Fish and Forest policy, under which the government has offered more than 100 hectares of unused coastal land to rehabilitate 1,000 families hit by coastal disasters, Juhkam said.
“This policy helps restructure nature and provide victims with financial support,” he said.
Many participants in the conference underlined the need to engage local communities in disaster-reduction efforts and create links with local as well as central governments.
Nishat suggested that while it’s vital to consult communities that face natural disasters before making a plan to deal with such dangers, special caution should be applied so that traditional practices are not sacrificed.
Experts pointed out that in trying to develop adaptation plans, Bangladesh did not wait for foreign aid but created its own fund of $350 million for adaptation.
Pantho Rahaman is a senior journalist based in Dhaka.