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Bangladesh Climate and Disaster Risk Atlas: Exposures, Vulnerabilities, and Risks - Volume II (December 2021)

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Technical Summary


Bangladesh, considered to be the world’s largest delta, is a riverine country that is highly vulnerable to climate and weather-related and geophysical hazards due to its topography and geographical location. The topography of Bangladesh can be described as low and flat, with more than half of the land with an elevation of less than 6 meters above mean sea level and traversed by major drainage systems of the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Meghna rivers.
The Bay of Bengal in the south, the Indo-Burma range in the east, and the Barind track in the northwest contribute to the persistence of natural hazards in Bangladesh for centuries. The country has long been exposed to various climatological (e.g., drought), hydrometeorological (e.g., cyclones, storm surge, flood), and other geophysical (e.g., landslides and erosion) hazards. Its funnel-shaped southern coast makes it susceptible to cyclones and storm surges, medium to high levels of soil salinity, and sea level rise. The Barind track on the northern and northeastern sides of Bangladesh also experiences frequent drought. Because it is the largest delta in the world, with the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Meghna river systems flowing toward the Bay of Bengal, a huge portion of Bangladesh’s land area experiences frequent flooding, especially flash floods along with river erosion. Also, the eastern parts of Bangladesh, comprising the Sylhet and Chattogram divisions, are prone to earthquakes, landslides, and flash floods. Map II.1 shows the major hazards in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s potential to sustain its development faces significant challenges posed by changing climate with risks to life, infrastructure, and the economy. This may aggravate the country’s prevailing development problems and increase pressure on key resources needed to sustain growth (Ahmed 2006). Understanding climate-related and other hazard scenarios and how these pose risks or provide opportunities for preparation, adaptation, and transformation of different sectors can significantly improve societal resilience. Undeniably, the need to mainstream climate resilience into development planning and decision-making processes has become increasingly apparent and is fast emerging as a major policy agenda.

The core idea with mainstreaming is that climate change adaptation and mitigation measures are implemented as part of a broader suite of measures within existing development processes and decision cycles. This differs from stand-alone adaptation by which new activities are formulated and implemented with the expressed goal of addressing vulnerability to climate change. Activities to increase economic growth and development are often linked, both directly and indirectly, to the impacts of climate change. With this in view, government planners need to focus on supporting the process of integrating climate resilience into national development planning, including through designing monitoring and evaluation frameworks based on existing capacity.

Bangladesh’s population was estimated at 162.7 million in July 2017 and population density was about 1,103 persons per square kilometer (Bureau of Bangladesh Statistics 2020). Most of the population rely on agricultural activities for livelihood and are greatly dependent on water resources. These same sectors are highly exposed to climate and geophysical hazards and have limited resilient measures and weak infrastructures. Understanding climate and disaster risks scenarios and how these pose threats or provide opportunities to different socioeconomic sectors can significantly improve societal resilience in Bangladesh.

Asian Development Bank: © Asian Development Bank