Written evidence submitted by the European Action Group on Climate Change in Bangladesh

 

8 Dec 2009

Following Select Committee's meeting on 8 Dec 2009 at St Mathias Centre in East London we are submitting our concerns:

 

An adaptation budget of US Dollars 700k has been allocated by the Bangladesh Government, but further assistance is needed to expand the work. Various structural efforts have already been taken by the Government in Bangladesh: the building of cyclone shelters and of an early warning system, raising the level of embankments/roads, etc. Basic needs like arrangements for clean water, acceptable sanitation/health facilities, education and livelihood must be ensured even for emergency situations, as emergencies occur very frequently. Investments should primarily be aimed at enhancing the resilience capability of the population, with provisions for the regular updating of infrastructures (including interactive map dissemination). Priority should be given to maintain the quality of water, soil and air. Here both a macro- and micro-level approach should be followed. The harvesting of solar energy, the recycling of biodegradable waste, and safe disposal of hazardous waste should get proper attention. Under any kind of calamity, the existing infrastructure collapse will worsen the people's living environment.

 

While the UK DFID's extra 75 million is welcomed, DFID along with the Bangladesh government should agree and manage programmes falling under the country's agenda for response. This should be seen as part of a wider objective where Bangladesh's democratically elected government should be allowed to allocate funds towards securing its future.

 

The key point is about additionality.  Without funds being additional to existing aid commitments, the fight against global poverty will be reversed. Oxfam estimates that at least 75 million fewer children are likely to attend school and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment globally, if money that would otherwise have been spent on health and education is diverted to tackle climate change. It is crucial that funds for adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change transferred from the developed to the developing world, be in addition to existing aid budgets.

 

There is a disconnect between ordinary people and climate change in Bangladesh, where it is not high on the agenda of political parties. This is an existential issue and should be on top of the agenda. Too much of the existing climate change debate is conducted in unintelligible terms, which shuts out the people we are supposed to be talking about. We need to change the terms of the debate. Bangladesh is in the frontline of the war against climate change. There is a disconnect between the 'exclusive conversation' among academics and NGOs as opposed to the diaspora.

 

Both the UK and Bangladesh along with other agencies could take the lead in mobilizing civil society in both countries, as they have the network to reach out to grassroots' communities. The gender issue should get appropriate attention, as patriarchal attitudes towards women have negative impact on society at large. The needs of women differ from those of men.

 

There needs to be much greater attention for the impact of climate change on public health. In Bangladesh, the health effects of climate change are widespread. Besides the systemic effect of desertification, recurrent flooding related diseases and physical trauma due to natural disasters, the country also faces an epidemic of disabling arsenic poisoning and an increase in the salt level in the water of major rivers in the coastal areas, as recently exposed. The study undertaken by medical students, community health professionals and the Statistics Department of the Imperial College of London in collaboration with the Primary Care Centre in Bangladesh, published in the reputed medical journal The Lancet in 2007, has shown that due to the rise in sea levels the sodium chloride level in river and surface water areas has caused a widespread increase in blood pressure among the normal young population living in the coastal areas (as compared to people living in the north). This will cause millions of premature deaths in the long term, if the problem is not dealt with now. This is the kind of silent impact that is not being taken seriously enough. It will mean that these people's life expectancy will be significantly reduced.

 

Rises in sea levels are already having a dramatic impact on Bangladesh. The government needs to begin now with creating jobs and opportunities for people who live in dangerous coastal areas and have no other options.

 

Finally, since Bangladeshis have more experience than most in dealing with environmental disasters, the country should take the lead in deciding how to cope in the decades ahead.


Ansar Ahmed Ullah Syed Enam

Convenor Joint Convenor