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The climate crisis in Bangladesh

From a prehistoric age, Bangladesh has been significantly affected by the global climate crisis and the country is vulnerable to various climate-related challenges, including rising sea levels, cyclones, floods, and extreme weather events.

There are many key aspects of the climate crisis in Bangladesh, one of them being the sea level rise. Geographically, Bangladesh is a low-lying country, and a substantial portion of its population resides in coastal areas. Rising sea levels pose a severe threat to these regions, leading to saltwater intrusion, erosion of coastal lands, and displacement of communities. As a significant portion of Bangladesh is situated at or near sea level, it makes it highly susceptible to the impacts of rising sea level and even a relatively small increase in sea level can lead to saltwater intrusion into coastal areas, affecting agriculture and freshwater sources. Rising sea levels contribute to coastal erosion, leading to the loss of land, homes, and infrastructure, this is a pressing issue for many coastal communities, particularly in the southern and southeastern regions. Efforts to address sea level rise in Bangladesh involve a combination of adaptive measures, sustainable development practices, and international collaboration to mitigate the broader impacts of climate change. 

Another key aspect of Bangladesh’s climate crisis is the cyclones and storm surges as Bangladesh is prone to tropical cyclones, which can cause widespread damage, particularly in the coastal regions. Storm surges, associated with cyclones, can result in extensive flooding, leading to loss of life, property, and infrastructure. As Bangladesh is in a cyclone-prone region, particularly in the Bay of Bengal, the warm waters of the Bay provide favourable conditions for the formation and intensification of tropical cyclones. Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal can vary in intensity, from relatively mild storms to powerful hurricanes and the impact of cyclones includes heavy rainfall, strong winds, and storm surges. These surges, often driven by strong winds, can lead to the inundation of coastal areas, causing severe flooding. The storm surge is one of the most devastating features of cyclones in Bangladesh. A storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level generated by a storm, particularly during landfall. The combination of high winds and low atmospheric pressure associated with cyclones can push water toward the shore, leading to a surge that inundates coastal regions. The storm surges associated with cyclones can result in coastal flooding, which poses a significant threat to lives, property, and infrastructure. Low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable to these surges, and the impact can extend several kilometres inland. Efforts to mitigate the impact of cyclones in Bangladesh involve a combination of early warning systems, infrastructure development, community preparedness, and international collaboration. Cyclone Shelters have also been introduced to provide a safe refuge for people during cyclonic events and these shelters are designed to withstand strong winds and storm surges, offering protection to residents in vulnerable regions. However, despite these efforts, the country remains vulnerable to the increasing intensity and frequency of cyclones, emphasizing the ongoing need for resilience-building measures.

Another major aspect of the current climate crisis in Bangladesh is the reoccurring floods. Bangladesh is being exposed to this along with exacerbated, heavy monsoon rains, river overflow, and cyclones. Flooding can lead to widespread displacement, destruction of crops, and damage to infrastructure and during the monsoon season, Bangladesh experiences heavy rainfall, leading to swollen rivers and increased water levels. Also, the flat and low-lying topography of Bangladesh makes it susceptible to inundation. Large portions of the country are situated in river deltas and floodplains, and even a moderate increase in water levels can result in widespread flooding it’s shown that riverbank erosion is another factor contributing to flooding. The constant movement and shifting of riverbanks can alter river courses and lead to changes in drainage patterns, impacting nearby communities and as Bangladesh has one of the highest population densities in the world, the concentration of people in vulnerable areas amplifies the impact of flooding, leading to more significant human and economic losses. Nonetheless, the government of Bangladesh is trying to resolve the flooding situation throughout the country with some of these methods including, providing flood forecasting with early warning systems, cyclone shelters, and community-based adaptation. 

The temperature extremes are also another key aspect of Bangladesh’s climate crisis as changes in temperature patterns can affect agriculture, water resources, and human health. Rising temperatures may impact crop yields and exacerbate heat-related health issues. This can have an immense impact on agriculture, and it will end up affecting crop production.

The Bangladesh government has been actively involved in addressing these challenges and has implemented various adaptation and mitigation measures. However, the country's high population density and limited resources pose significant challenges to managing the impacts of the climate crisis effectively. Bangladesh actively participates in international forums and advocates for concerted efforts to mitigate climate change and support vulnerable countries in adapting to its impacts. The ability of Bangladesh to navigate these challenges often depends on domestic policies, international cooperation, and its capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.


Written by Hazira Miah.

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