Risk and vulnerability

Vulnerability to Climate Change

Vulnerability to climate change is the degree to which geophysical, biological and socio-economic systems are susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse impacts of climate change including climate variability and extremes (Schneider et al., 2007). Vulnerable populations have only the limited capacity to protect themselves from environmental hazards, in particular from extreme events such as drought and floods. They also bear the brunt of the consequences of large-scale environmental change, such as climate change. The overall vulnerability to climate change for food security can be assessed in terms of interrelated contextual sector of social, economic and environmental vulnerability (Fischer et al. 2002). Many factors contribute to social vulnerability, including rapid population growth, poverty and hunger, poor health, low levels of education, gender inequality, fragile and hazardous location, and lack of access to resources and services, including knowledge and technological means. And when people are socially disadvantaged or lack political voice, this vulnerability is exacerbated further.

The rising impact of climate change on economies and livelihood assets will have inference for people’s vulnerability to shocks more usually. It also likely to impact directly on poor people’s livelihood capital – including their health, accessibility to water and natural resources, and shelter and infrastructure. Climate change may affect the poor through changes or depletion in common property resources, such as fisheries, rangelands or forests which they depend on for their livelihoods (DFID 2004).  Vulnerability to climate change differs considerably across socio-economic groups. Schneider et al., 2007 identifies the poor, particularly in urban and urbanizing cities of Asia, are highly vulnerable to climate change because of their limited access to profitable livelihood opportunities and limited access to areas that are fit for safe and healthy habitation.

Consequently, the poor sector will likely be exposed to more risks from floods and other climate-related hazards in areas they are forced to stay in (Adger, 2003 in Schneider et al., 2007). The rural poor who are dependent on agriculture and fisheries as their major livelihood, along with those living in coastal areas, who are likely to suffer heavy losses without appropriate. In the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), resource poor farmers, who have very limited options to cope with and recover from external stresses, are most vulnerable to environmental changes such as rising sea-level, and climate change and climate variability leading to increased risk of flooding. (GECAFS, 2005)  Easterling, et al, (2007) conformed with high confidence that smallholder and subsistence farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fisher folk will suffer complex, localized impacts of climate change. Because of limited adaptive capacity these groups, willface the negative effect on crops yields, combined with a high vulnerability to extreme events.

Vulnerability of people in different AEZs

In Bangladesh vulnerability to climate change and extreme events mostly depends on geographical location and coping capacity. GoB (2005) stated that low level of economic development and corresponding low investment capacity, inadequate infrastructure, low level of social development, lack of institutional capacity, and a high dependency on the natural resource base make the country highly vulnerable to climate change (including both variability as well as extreme events), with the geographical location. Alam and Laurel (2005), found that the population living in the coastal area are more vulnerable than the population in other areas. The country is prone to five major hazards, viz. flood, drought (monsoon), river erosion, cyclone and salinity.  Severe and moderate river flood prone areas are mainly located in the floodplains of the major rivers (e.g. Brahmaputra-Jamuna, Meghna estuarine and low Ganges river floodplains), the Haor basin and the lower Atrai basin, and areas prone to severe and moderate flash floods include mainly the northern and eastern piedmont plains and Chittagong coastal plains (CCC,2009a).  Drought prone areas are mainly located in the western part of Bangladesh, with very severe areas concentrated in the Barind Tract and adjacent high Ganges river floodplain areas. Active floodplains of the major rivers Teesta, Brahmaputra and the Ganges, and middle and young estuarine floodplains of the Meghna are the major areas prone to river erosion. High risk and risk areas for cyclone are located within the exposed areas of the coastal zone (Ganges tidal plain, Meghna estuarine floodplain and Chittagong coastal plain). Major salinity intrusion takes place in the Ganges tidal plain, with the salinity front extending to the high Ganges river floodplain and Gopalganj-Khulna Beels in some dry months. Salinity intrusion is limited to much shorter distances from the coastline in young Meghna estuarine floodplain and Chittagong coastal plain (CCC, 2009a).

Vulnerability to natural hazards

According to published literature, the most critical impacts associated with climate change in Bangladesh are: (i) flood and drainage congestion; (ii) reduced fresh water resources and availability; (iii) occurrence of morphological processes (e.g. erosion); and (iv) an increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters (extreme events: cyclone/storm surges, floods and droughts) (World Bank, 2000; Huqet al., 1998; Ahmed, 2005, GoB,2005). From time to time, these hazards assume disastrous proportions causing great damages to lives and livelihoods and the incidence of large-scale poverty may be attributed primarily to their frequent occurrence. The widespread nature of poverty in the agrarian society is believed to be mainly due to poor resource to over population as well as frequently occurring disasters. A recent study on climate change (Characterizing Country Settings: Development of a Base Document in the Backdrop of Climate Change Impacts, November 2008) conducted by the Climate Change Cell of Bangladesh, established by Ministry of Environment and Forests, under Department of Environment (DoE) has investigate the Vulnerability to natural hazards around the AEZs of the country. The study found that severe and moderate river flood prone areas are mainly located in the floodplains of the major rivers (e.g. Brahmaputra-Jamuna, Meghna estuarine and low Ganges river floodplains),the Haor basin and the lower Atrai basin, and areas prone to severe and moderate flash floods include mainly the northern and eastern piedmont plains and Chittagong coastal plains. Drought prone areas are mainly located in the western part of Bangladesh, with very severe areas concentrated in the Barind Tract and adjacent high Ganges river floodplain areas. Active floodplains of the major rivers Teesta, Brahmaputra and the Ganges, and middle and young estuarine floodplains of the Meghna are the major areas prone to river erosion. High risk and risk areas for cyclone are located within the exposed areas of the coastal zone (Ganges tidal plain, Meghna estuarine floodplain and Chittagong coastal plain). Major salinity intrusion takes place in the Ganges tidal plain, with the salinity front extending into the high Ganges river floodplain and Gopalganj-Khulna Beels in some dry months. Salinity intrusion is limited to much shorter distances from the coastline in young Meghna estuarine floodplain and Chittagong coastal plain.

Vulnerability to floods

As of 2000, some 45.5 million people are estimated to be exposed to severe and moderate floods (including river flood, flash flood and tidal flood), of which 22 million are male and 23.5 million are female. Districts with higher population vulnerable to flood are Chittagong, Comilla, Sylhet, Sirajganj, Khulna, Noakhali, Faridpur, Pabna, Patuakhali, Bogra, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Sunamganj, Bhola, Dhaka, Kurigram and Pirojpur, with population varying from 0.1 to 3.4 million. As far as percentage of area affected in a district is concerned, river floods are prominent in the districts of Rajbari, Sirajganj, Madaripur, Kurigram, Narail, Pabna and Shariatpur, flash floods in the districts of Chittagong, Feni, Sherpur and Netrokona, and tidal floods in the districts of Patuakhali, Jhalakathi,  Barguna, Bagerhat, Faridpur, Khulna and Pirojpur (CCC,2008a). Regarding the analysis of the study (CCC,2009a) among the 30 AEZs, eight (Active Tista Floodplain, Active Brahmaputra-Jamuna Floodplain, Active Ganges Floodplain, Ganges Tidal Floodplain, Young Meghna Estuarine Floodplain, Northern and Eastern Piedmont Plain) are under serve risk of flood. Among the most flood risk AEZs, Ganges Tidal Floodplain (including Sundarbans) possess the high risk considering the number of people at risk (98,48,950). According to the study (CCC,2009a) some 8 million small farmers are vulnerable to flood, majority of whom live in the districts of Khulna, Munshiganj, faridpur, Bogra, Sirajganj, Noakhali, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Jhalokathi, Rajbari, Patuakhali, Chittagong, Lakshmipur, Sylhet and Barguna. The number of small farmers in these districts vary from 0.2 to 0.55 million. Flood affects some 10.2 million rural wage laborers, especially in the districts of Sylhet, Sirajganj, Chittagong, Khulna,Sunamganj, Satkhira, Noakhali, Faridpur, Munshiganj, Bhola and Bagerhat, with population varying from 0.34 to 0.55 million. The total number of exposed fishermen is 0.95 million, mainly in the districts of Bhola, Bagerhat, Sylhet, Satkhira, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Sunamganj, Bargguna and Patuakhali.  The exposed urban wage laborers total 0.83 million, mostly concentrated in the districts of Bogra, Chittagong, Sylhet, Faridpur, Dhaka, Narail and Khulna. The flood free areas are Bandarban, Chuadanga, Joypurhat, Khagrachari, Meherpur, Naogaon, Panchagarh, Rangamati and Thakurgaon.

Vulnerability to droughts

Drought is also predicted for some parts of the country due increasing evapo-transpiration from higher temperatures, diminished winter rains, and increasing rainfall variability across the country. Both rabiand kharifseason crops would be affected by this drought, especially in the northwest, north-central and southwest regions and under climate change intensity of droughts will increase more than 3 folds during Rabi season. The worst affected region would be north-west, north-central and south-west where both irrigated and rain fed crops would be affected (Rahman et al. 2007).

Study of Climate Change Cell (2009a) found the peoples are vulnerable to very severe, severe and moderate drought in the Ganges Tidal Floodplain and Old Himalayan Piedmont Plain areas. Severe and moderate drought found in High Ganges River Floodplain; moderate drought prone areas are Karatoya-Bangali Floodplain, Active Brahmaputra-Jamuna Floodplain, Young Brahmaputra and Jamuna Floodplain. Considering district wise drought affected area in percent, very severe and severe drought are prominent in the districts of Joypurhat, Nawabganj, Naogaon, Rajshai and Dinajpur, varying from 91 to 55 percent. Moderately drought affected major districts are Chuadanga, Meherpur, Jhenaidah, Panchagarh and Jessore and affected areas varying from 88 to 78 percent. Around 2 million small farmers and 2.4 million rural wage laborers are vulnerable to very severe to severe drought in kharif, majority of them live in the districts of Joypurhat, Nawabganj, Naogaon, Rajshai and Dinajpur. The population of small farmers in these districts vary from 0.12 to 0.46 million, while that of rural wage laborers from 0.1 to 0.6 million. Small farmers and rural wage laborers exposed to moderate drought total 6 and 6.6 million, respectively. Majority of small farmers live in the districts of Chuadanga, Jessore, Tangail, Bogra and Gazipur and population varying from 0.86 to 0.32 million. Majority of rural wage laborers live in the districts of Chuadanga, Satkhira, Dinajpur, Bogra and Jessore, with population varying from 0.82 to 0.29 million (CCC,2009a). 

Vulnerability to cyclone

Some 6.2 million people in 12 districts (Bhola, Cox’s Bazar, Barguna, Patuakhali, Noakhali, Bagerhat, Khulna, Lakshmipur, Feni, Pirojpur and Barisal) are estimated to be at High risk from cyclonic, storm surges. Addition of a further 2.3 million in 14 districts (Barguna, Lakshmipur, Pirojpur, Patuakhali, Bagerhat, Barisal, Khulna, Cox’s Bazar, Satkhira, Chittagong, Feni, Noakhali, Bhola and Bandarban) at ‘Risk’ results in a total at-risk population of 8.5 million. In terms of area under high risk, Bhola, Cox’s Bazar, Barguna, Patuakhali and Noakhali ranked first, second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively. However, in terms of population exposed to ‘High risks’, Bhola, Chitatgong, Noakhali, Cox’s Bazar and Patuakhali ranked first, second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively. In the case of cyclone ‘Risk’ areas, Barguna, Lakshmipur, Pirojpur, Patuakhali and Bagerhat ranked first, second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in terms of percent area under high risk, Chittagong, barisal, Khulna, Lkshmipur and Patuakhali rank first, second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in terms of population at risk. Though, Madaripur, Shariatpur, Gopalganj, Faridpur, Chandpur, Narsingdietc.were outside of the cyclone risk zone, SIDR in 2007, caused heavy damages in those districts too. As a result of climate change, these risk-free districts are no longer free of cyclone risks (NCCB,2008).

 Most vulnerable communities in terms of rights, empowerment and capacity

Climate change induced natural hazards create crisis situations that disrupt the fabric of everyday life at micro levels. Climate change induced risks are disproportionately carried by those who are already socio economically and physically disadvantaged. Knowledge, skills, power relations, gender roles, health, wealth, race/ethnicity, age, physical and (dis)ability also help to shape differential risk and vulnerability levels and determine individuals’ ability to ‘bounce back’. Those most vulnerable to disasters include the infants and very old, the poor, women, ethnic minorities, physically and mentally disabled and elderly. Social vulnerability is an important concept, underscoring the ways in which, and reasons why, people’s differential access to and control over resources (such as land, money, credit, good health and personal mobility, to name but a few) are closely interwoven with their ability to survive and recover from disasters. The risk-escapes of hazards/ disasters are also affected by poverty, population growth, land settlement into fragile areas, over exploitation of natural resources, inadequate communication structures and weak institutional bodies, global climate change (that is partially caused by human actions), as well as differential access to the kinds of information that could help people to protect themselves (GTZ, 2005).

Women and Child

Climate change also has a gender dimension. Majority of women working in the informal sectors which are frequently worst hit by climate change-related disasters and other shocks (Araujo and Quesada-Aguilar, 2007). Study shows (Araujo and Quesada-Aguilar, 2007) that women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men during disasters and that make them more vulnerable to cope with unexpected events/disasters or adapt to change (Brody et al., 2008). Traditional food sources may become more volatile and meager due to climate change and thus consistently affect women (Parikh, 2002). Women and young girls largely responsible for water collection, especially among the poor people (UNDP 2006), are more sensitive to the changes in seasons and climatic conditions that affect accessibility and quantity of drinking water which makes its collection even more time-consuming (Brody et al., 2008). Also SLRand saline water infiltration might be affected livelihoods from fishing in which women are frequently involved (Parikh, 2002). In a common household in rural Bangladesh women has to maintain hygiene, ensure water supply, cook for the family, take the burden of post processing of all agricultural produce, raise a few poultry, maintain a courtyard garden to ensure supply of nutritious food (vegetables) – all happening simultaneously. However the woman (perhaps including the girl and child) receives the least amount of food in a food impoverished household. Under the existing social and economic circumstances, Bangladeshi women are lag behind than their male counterparts. Women’s and men’s responses to these crisis situations, as well as their abilities to cope with them to a very large extent reflect their status, roles and positions in society: because of gender based inequalities, girls and women are typically at higher risk than boys and men (UN, 2004). A gender approach is therefore important to identify men’s and women’s differing vulnerabilities to crisis as well as their different capacities and coping strategies in order to design effective disaster management program.

Indigenous People

Indigenous people’s dependency on natural resources for livelihood and their leaving in marginal areas turn them on the frontline of climate change (Salick and Byg, ed.,2007). A recent study (Gunter et al., 2007) review that the tribal people of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh seem to be highly vulnerable to climate change induced increase in drought, floods, landslides and cyclone. The area is expected unusual drought during the Rabi and Pre-Kharif season (typically November to February) by 2030.  While water related hazard, including from flood and sea level rise CHT are not directly vulnerable. Most of the CHT is not under high or moderate risk of cyclone, but vulnerable to wind risk resulting from a climate change induced in increase frequency and intensity of cyclone.  Also the tribal population is due to their concentration in the CHT relatively more vulnerable to landslide than the Bengali population in the national level and less capable to adapt due to more illiterate than the non-tribal (Gunter et al., 2007).

References:

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