Bangladesh's Comprehensive Approach to Disaster Management
By Kirsten Luxbacher and Abu Mostafa Kamal Uddin
Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone nations in the world. Every year, about 10 million Bangladeshi citizens are impacted by one or more natural hazards. In the past, the government of Bangladesh had a traditional reactive approach to addressing natural disasters that focused on relief and rehabilitation activities. This changed in the 1990s with recognition of the need for a more proactive approach that included “hazard identification and mitigation, community preparedness and integrated response efforts.” The result was the government’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme, which aims to move disaster management away from relief and rehabilitation and towards risk reduction.
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Phase I of the program, which ran from 2004 – 2009, had several notable outcomes:
- a Climate Change Cell to convert global forecasts into impact statements for Bangladesh;
- a Disaster Management Information Center with communications links to all high-risk provinces in the country;
- initiatives to evaluate the hazards, risks and vulnerabilities of communities, including earthquake risk assessments for three major cities in Bangladesh, and tsunami and storm surge risk mapping for the entire coastline, which feed into city planning and emergency response services.
Taken together, these initiatives have significantly increased the nation’s capacity to respond proactively to disasters, as illustrated by the successful large-scale evacuations that preceded Cyclone Sidr in 2007. The program has had exceptional support from Ministers and Secretaries who recognize the important role that disaster management planning can play in the national development process. However, action needs to be taken to increase community level support for disaster risk reduction in order to achieve long-term sustainability for the program.