Financing and Coping with Climate Change

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

As the storm gathers in the distant dark sky, Mojirun Khatun looks at what used to be her home – a little bamboo shack on the edges of the river Jamuna in Gaibandha. Hardly anything is left. The flood has robbed her of whatever belongings she had, even the kitchen utensils. All she is left with is a little polythene bag and the dry bread in it. Nature has never been kind to her. In the past ten years, Mojirun Khatun, now 45, has moved from one char (silt shoal) to the other. ‘Every time there was a storm or flood, I had to move out. I have so far lived in 30 different chars in my life,’ she says. ‘My family has suffered greatly but we have never given up, although it has become so much more difficult in recent years.’

 

Floods and storms are regular phenomenon in Bangladesh. Every year the country, which is almost the size of the US state of Ohio but has a population of 160 million, is visited by flood and storm of varying intensity. In the past few years, there seems to have been an increase in both their intensity and frequency. Hot on the heels of back-to-back floods, cyclone Sidr hit the south-western coast, accompanied by a tidal bore. As of November 21, the official death figure stood at 3,167, with hundreds of people still missing in 15 coastal districts. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless. Telecommunications and electricity supply were disrupted for at least 36 hours after the cyclone made its landfall.

Bangladesh is not an isolated case.

All across South Asia, natural disasters is a common phenomenon. Evidence does suggest that these disasters have increased in propensity. It is increasing becoming evident: Climate change is here, and it is real.

Increasingly, the impacts of higher temperatures, more variable precipitation, more extreme weather events, and sea level rise are felt in South Asia and will continue to intensify. These changes are already having major impacts on the economic performance of South Asian countries and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people.

The impacts result not only from gradual changes in temperature and sea level but also, in particular, from increased climate variability and extremes, including more intense floods, droughts, and storms.
South Asia is well known for its resilience. For its people who continue to fight natural disasters each time and start over. In terms of adaption and mitigation plans and policies, much has been initiated within the region. For example, in Bangladesh, we have come up with the national adaptation plan, and moving forward with a 100 year delta plan. But, what perhaps remains to be a challenge in the region is effective implementation.

Today’s plenary touched upon these very issues, and the possible arenas that needs to be focused upon.

As pointed out in the plenary, perhaps it is also time for the region to address these issues in a strategic and coordinated manner.

What are the financing options in this regard? There is the SAARC Development Fund, multi-lateral funding agencies and private sector. Has South Asia initiated and coordinated efforts appropriately to acquire these? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Even if funding has been acquired, has there been a significant improvement in mitigation strategies?

Market based instruments such as CDM has not been utilized appropriately. The participation of the region, with the exception of India has been incredibly poor. This has been particularly due to lack of capacity- this is where perhaps, the regional cooperation can assist in the process. Private sector which represents a significant portion in the region has a massive role to play also.

More than anything else, it is perhaps time to move the plans and policies which South Asia has done so well, to real implementation!

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