Vulnerability of the Bay of Bengal Enclosed Coastal Sea due to Socio‐Economic Conditions of the Megacity of Dhaka

Dhaka, an enclosed coastal megacity of the Bay of Bengal, with an average altitude of four meters above sea level, is regularly impacted by tropical cyclones and flooding, and has a very low capacity to adapt to climate change. Increased migrants from the highly populated coastal zones suffering from geo-hydro-meteorological disasters like erosion, floods and tidal surges, cyclones and tornados, and salinity intrusion etc., a huge population has migrated to the capital city for their livelihoods and it is one of the fastest growing megacities in the world. The historical cyclones and tidal surges like the Bhola Cyclone-1970, Bangladesh Cyclone-1991, Cyclone Sidr -2007, Cyclone Nargis -2008 and Aila – 2009 killed and displaced millions of people. Millions of domestic and wild animals died; damage to crops, forests and plantations and structural properties like houses, roads and highways, embankments, transmission lines were huge, there were outbreaks of epidemics, water shortages etc., causing many people to become homeless and hungry and driving them in desperation to Dhaka for food and shelter. To meet up the demand of land of the growing population, the city has spread outwards in an uncontrolled manner with slums and has been ranked as the second most unlivable city in the World Livability Survey 2011 according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Quick and unplanned urbanization with huge poor and beggar, transport problems, pollution, accumulation of garbage and refuse, industrial waste and pollutants threatened to make large parts of the city uninhabitable. The low-elevated flat city has experienced worst sufferings of floods in 1988, 1998, 2004, 2006-9. Peripheral rivers like the Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Sitalaksha are seriously polluted and their water is not even recyclable for domestic use. Moreover, the city is experiencing a shortage of drinkable water as the water-table is going down year by year. Frequent load-shedding and power failure have become common occurrences of the daily life. For 14 million people, tremendous consumption of resources, production of wastes, and pollution, social disintegration, a healthy human life is rare; rather life is becoming full of anxiety, agony, mental and physical illness, tension and crime. They have turned the urban habitat into a hazardous place which diminishes urban sustainability. To limit these vulnerabilities, a combination of local and regional action is needed, and local, regional and global policy efforts to support both adaptation and mitigation. The present study explores the magnitudes of the vulnerabilities due to accentuations of the climate change events and highlights the sufferings of huge human settlements in the megacity, Dhaka and recommendations are made to overcome the situation.

This paper was presented in the Global Summit on Coastal Seas EMECS 9 on August 28-31 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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Director, CGEC International University of Business Agriculture and Technology Bangladesh

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