Disaster Management Reference Handbook (June 2023) – Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s history – pre- and postindependence – is marked by disasters due to myriad natural and other hazards. The country’s proximity to the Bay of Bengal exposes it to tropical cyclones that form over the Indian Ocean before moving northward and making landfall in South Asia. Storms are the disaster the country most frequently experiences. Bangladesh’s river delta terrain and monsoon climate also combine to pose a considerable flood hazard, which is compounded by storm surge. Floods are the second most frequent disaster to hit the country. Other significant hazards include landslides (often associated with storms and floods), earthquakes, extreme temperature events, and epidemics.

Climate change is already exacerbating Bangladesh’s exposure to climate hazards. While Bangladesh’s average temperature has increased on pace with the global average temperature, the country’s maximum temperatures are increasing more swiftly and are already bringing recordbreaking heat waves in a concerning trend that is anticipated to continue, to the detriment of human health and agricultural production. Climate change is also projected to expose a greater area of the country to tropical cyclones. The good news is that Bangladesh has made incredible progress in preparing for tropical cyclones and has drastically reduced its death toll from hundreds of thousands of people decades ago to dozens of people in recent years. However, there remain challenges as the more vulnerable survivors of storms face loss of livelihoods and risk being pushed further into poverty by multiple, frequent disasters.

Bangladesh’s scientists and authorities are also aware that the country must prepare for earthquakes. While it has experienced small to moderate quakes, the area has not seen a massive earthquake in more than a century. Dhaka and other urban areas are at serious risk if a major quake occurs because unplanned urbanization and building construction do not adhere to the earthquake preparedness code. A survey found that an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 or greater that strikes Dhaka would result in the collapse of tens of thousands of buildings.

Many of Bangladesh’s disaster risks are interrelated. Earthquake risks are increased by urbanization. Climate change is partially contributing to urbanization, as rural-urban migration increases when people affected by climate disasters, including flooding, lose their livelihoods and see moving to the city as their best option. Within this context, disaster risks exacerbated by climate change are a major challenge to the country’s continued poverty alleviation and human and economic development. Frequent disasters, simultaneous or successive, are hitting vulnerable populations the hardest. These groups do not have the opportunity to recover from the last disaster before the next one hits. A considerable number of the most vulnerable people in Bangladesh are the nearly one million Rohingya refugees who are not citizens but whose future is entwined with their host country.

Bangladesh is well aware of the cross-cutting nature of disaster challenges and is striving to take a coordinated approach. Under the central National Disaster Management Council (NDMC), headed by the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR), there is a set of disaster management committees at different administrative levels – i.e., district, upazila, and union; each committee consists of representatives of government, non-government organizations (NGO), and community and vulnerable groups. The disaster management system is legalized by the Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) and the Disaster Management Act. These two documents specify the roles and responsibilities of each committee in all stages of disasters. The District, Upazila, and Union Disaster Management Committees are responsible for local level disaster management, including initiatives that are related to Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

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