Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bangladesh ranked world’s 5th most vulnerable country for climate change

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH HAS been named one of the top countries in the world most vulnerable to a climate change-induced food crisis and hunger.

International aid agency ActionAid, in a research study revealed Monday, found Bangladesh among 28 developing countries more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than its South Asian neighbors India, Pakistan and Nepal.

The report titled “On the Brink: Who's Best Prepared for a Climate Change and Hunger Crisis?” warned that the era of cheap food was near its end due to the triple crises of climate change, depleted natural resources and skyrocketing food prices.

Bangladesh, among other countries, may not be prepared to face the consequences, the report said.

ActionAid, an international non-governmental organization focused on poverty and injustice, said that Bangladesh is facing severe water-related challenges due to scarcity of fresh water, salinity, increased flood and erosion, and frequent and prolonged drought.

The organization said the country's early warning system for floods, cyclones and storm was considered state-of-the-art.

With nearly half of Bangladesh's 150 million people already living below the poverty line, higher food prices will have a severe impact on people's ability to buy enough food, the report said.

It recommends that Bangladesh needs to produce 30 million more tonnes of rice each year to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. The challenges of losing more than 80,000 hectares to climate change or urbanization every year would complicate the ability to attain food autonomy.

While rural women play a central role in agriculture production, social norms and customs limit their mobility, according to the report.
The NGO argues that although the number of undernourished people in Bangladesh dropped to 27 percent as of January, prices of rice and wheat increased by 42 percent in April over the previous year.

ActionAid fears that climate change would add half a billion people to those facing chronic hunger around the world by 2050. Alarming rises in the price of food would push 44 million more people into poverty, while the poorest people would lose more arable lands as a result of unsustainable farming practices and an unprecedented rush by investors to control resources such as oil, minerals, bio-fuel and water.

Moreover, in the World Risk Index 2011, jointly conducted by United Nations University (UNU), Germany and the Institute of Environment and Human Security, published in September, Bangladesh ranked sixth among countries that are most vulnerable to natural disasters including typhoons, earthquake and tsunamis, as was listed in second place among Asian countries.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com