Published:  12:27 AM, 09 February 2019

Promoting Asia-pacific political will in disaster management

Promoting Asia-pacific political will in disaster management

Recently our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stressed the need for collaboration and cooperation among neighboring countries to minimize damages caused by natural disasters the 4th session of the Regional Consultative Group (RCG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific in Dhaka.

In general, Bangladesh contributes little to climate change, but it is one of the worst-affected countries by the impacts of global climate change due to its geographical location, which is highly prone to natural disasters such as cyclone, flood, landslide and earthquake. The Global Climate Risk Index 2017 published by GERMANWATCH says, from 1998 to 2017, over 0.526 million people died as a direct result of more than 11,500 extreme weather events.

Disaster risk reduction is an indispensable precondition of sustainable economic development. Nature is a setting of - oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, wetlands, land, forest, energy, air, hill, plants, animals and human being. In terms of development insurgency and neo-liberalism, sometimes water conflict is created among diverse nations.

Setting the Scene

Under the free market economy, Asia-pacific region has attained a consistent growth in industrialization, infrastructure development, health care, food productivity and tourism. However, such development merely embraced protection of natural resources and environmentally sound management practices. In terms of global environmental crisis, 180 countries under climatic treaty are working to reduce the impacts of climate change. The impacts of climate change and global warming is their challenge of development and people's wellbeing.

Regional integration is very important not only for global economic development and international relations. It can be also for as effective to secure the regional environmental and climate status. In this region, some states has been grappled with a series of environmental deterioration by means of deforestation, destruction of wetlands and inland fisheries, surface and groundwater pollution, soil nutrient depletion and inland salinity intrusion.

Also natural calamities ? floods, cyclones, tidal surges and tornadoes have resulted in severe socio-economic and environmental damage by a combination of natural/anthropogenic factors. Although they are making some efforts to resolve some of these environmental issues, no efforts will be adequate to face these challenges without identifying the underlying causes regionally and addressing them locally.

The right to water, land, forest, hill, coastal region of mass people is essential for standard of living in Asia-pacific.  For disasters management, all states look forward to make regional volunteers, treaty, technical committee, climatic experts groups through their own countries environment crisis and management experiences. Through this co-operative approach among nations - an 'environment lovers group' plays fundamental role in reducing climatic impacts.

Climatic Variability in South Asia

South Asia is a guiltless sufferer of climate change and global warming due to the geo-graphical location. The big population heaviness has imposed relentless strain on non-renewable and conventional energy resources. The increasing consumption of fossil fuel for domestic, industrial needs, transport has generated environmental hazards, forest insecurity and climatic aggression. People face land and water pollution, riverbank erosion and natural disasters. Agro-ecology is currently under threat. Desertification is scaling up. Coastal inhabitants are struggling with salinity and toxic crops.

Sometimes water bodies create conflict between nations particularly India and Bangladesh for Teesta River. In addition, Bangladesh is victim of many environmental and climatic problems - land encroachment in forest, commercial cultivation in forest, pure water access insecurity, land conflict, urban noise pollution, agrochemicals induced climate change, natural disasters induced migration, flood and cyclone induce environmental displacement. Environmental problems in Pakistan are ? deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, climate change, pesticide misuse, soil erosion, natural disasters and desertification.

Sri Lanka faces deforestation, bioaccumulation, and high land surface temperature in urban area. Also, wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanism in Sri Lanka. Waste management, eco-tourism monitoring, coastal or marine pollution, oil spilling is big environmental challenges in Maldives. Known as big democratic country ?

India is facing problem due to population explosion - water inequality, sanitation insecurity, urban air pollution, solid waste pollution, nutrient pollution, black smog, mobile towers indication impacts on environment and public health.

Afghanistan is losing their environmental resources due to terrorism, bombing, nude philosophy of neo-liberalism. Earthquake has been created big ecological crisis in Nepal. All countries are facing environmental hazards which discourage the gender equality. Women and children are highly affected in this region which prohibits the sustainable environmental security. 

Asia-pacific Potential in Environmental Sustainability

Regional integration can help to overcome the main impediments to hydropower development. The initiative known as the Abu Dhabi Dialogue Group (ADDG) was formed with seven Himalayan countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan."A cooperative and knowledge based partnership of states fairly managing and developing the Himalayan River Systems to bring economic prosperity, peace and social harmony, environmental sustainability from the source to the sea."

In Himalayan countries, we notice that The Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna (GBM) river system flows through five countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal - characterized by large population, limited land resources and frequent natural hazards.

Regional integration may enable the people of this region to achieve multiple benefits through multi-purpose river projects. Also, it may lend a hand to store monsoon water, mitigate the impacts of floods and droughts, augment dry season river flows, expand irrigation and navigation facilities, generate hydropower, and enhance energy and green security.

Nepal has climate change policy, National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA), Village Development Committee (VDCs), even they ensure public participation in local environmental management. Apart from that, there is tremendous potential for construction of reservoirs in Nepal which would augment the dry season flows of the Ganges by about 188,500 cusecs. 

Bhutan is a great example in South Asia for growth national happiness. It includes ? promotion of good governance, equitable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of culture and finally conservation of the environment.

Through the blessings of 'shintoism' and eco-friendly policies, forest in Bhutan act as mega carbon sinks. The authority of Bhutan encourages mass people for cycling and walking to the working areas. She has also imposed fees and time limits for parking cars in urban centers. Also, Bhutan has a hydropower generation potential of about 30,000 MW. The running river system has a first-rate prospect for generating an enormous amount of hydropower.

Sri Lanka is one step forward on urban planning, control urban land surface temperature, forest security and eco-tourism. Maldives is a land of marine and fish biodiversity. There are 250 species of coral reefs and 1000 fish species in Maldives. She increases her capacity in biomass burning plants with coconut husks as a major fuel source; build wind turbines and sustainable methods of waste management.

Pakistan has taken a firsthand policy for Agro-tourism. It enhances their eco-friendly agricultural systems. In Pakistan, there are - 14 national parks, 72 wildlife sanctuaries, 66 game reserves, 9 marine and littoral protected areas and 19 protected wetland bodies. Through the National Conservation strategies, Pakistan is working to reduce climatic impacts, conserve soils in croplands, enhance efficiency of irrigation, protect watersheds, sustain fisheries resources and manage urban wastes.

In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) is the first ever national climate fund established by least developed country. It takes various projects through climatic budget to help coastal and vulnerable communities. In addition, there are Bangladesh climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) managed by Ministry of Environment and Forest.

Some relevant policy papers and legal documents also address climate change-induced disasters - Standing Orders on Disasters 2010, National Disaster Management Plan (2011-20150, Disaster Management Act(20120, Bangladesh Climate Expenditure and Industrial Review(2012) and Climate Fiscal Framework( 2014). In India, there are National Environmental Policy (2006), National Forest Policy(1998), Environmental Protection Act (1986), National Wildlife Action Plan (1973) etc.

Indian state policy (Article 48) mentions - the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. In addition, Article-51 clarifies that; it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

The catchment areas of these three mighty rivers are The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river basin is a transboundary river basin with a total area of just over 1.7 million km, distributed between India (64%), China (18%), Nepal (9%), Bangladesh (7%) and Bhutan (2%). Regional integration among 8 countries may ensure the energy and environmental security through financial, technical, political, social and cultural resources. Water ecological can also be reduced through collective efforts in this region.

Environmental Planning Model

I can propose "Asia-pacific Natural Disaster Security Network'. It would identify the financial(environmental budget, providing incentives for raising water use efficiency, joint research, environment policy formation and implementation strategy), technical(surface water for irrigation and industry, geo-graphical information systems, remote sensing sanitation) and social constraints (cropping pattern and diversification, patriarchy, climate, geographic variability and vulnerability)  for environmental security.

In terms of disaster management and pollution control, political parties of every country through their politico-economic thought and action ensure public participation and power decentralization to resolve climatic crisis. There are a lot example around the world of regional integration in environmental and river security.

Such as ? Mekong River Commission (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam), Convention and Protection of the Rhine (Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland under EU Framework), Nile Basin Initiative (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo and Eritrea-observer) and  Senegal River Basin Water and Environmental Management Project (Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal).

If we consider the sustainable development strategies, there are 17 goals and 169 targets. Among others, disaster management is the key component. Though regional integration, every country of South Asia and south-east Asia take the benefits environmentally sustainable strategies.

We are advancing towards national resilience guided by our vision 2021 and 2041 to contribute to global commitments and targets. Collaboration among the nations of Asia and the Pacific region, especially among neighbors, is very important in facing damage of greater magnitude from any natural calamity.


The Writer is an environmental analyst and associate member, Bangladesh Economic Association

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