Introduction: Bangladesh has a long history of natural disasters, with over 219 natural disasters taking place between 1980 and 2008, causing over US$16 billion in total damage. The country has had a long experience of severe cyclonic events, floods, land-slides, arsenic, tornadoes and threats of earthquakes. It is estimated that about 10 million Bangladeshi citizens are affected by one or more natural disaster annually. Additionally, the country has already started feeling the adverse impact of climate changes which stand to threaten the livelihood and food security sectors in Bangladesh.
In this first installment of a three part series of special reports, we will look at Bangladesh’s policies and legal framework which have been put in place in the last five years for managing disasters. In the other two, we look at Bangladesh’s disaster preparedness and response to climate change issues.
After the current administration came to power in 2009, the government’s bureau of disaster management and relief was for the first time upgraded into a division, the Disaster Management and Relief Division (DMRD). Subsequently, disaster management and relief got its own full-fledged ministry, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. Following enactment of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2012, the government set up the Department for Disaster Management (DDM).
The DDM has the mandate to implement the objectives of DMA 2012 by reducing the overall vulnerability from different impacts of disaster by undertaking risk reduction activities; conducting humanitarian assistance programs efficiently to enhance the capacity of poor and disadvantaged as well as strengthening and coordinating programmes undertaken by various government and non-government organizations related to disaster risk reduction and emergency response. It is responsible for executing directions, recommendations by the government in connection with disaster management as well as the national disaster management principles and planning.
With the advent of DMA 2012, and as part of the reorganizations process in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the Directorate of Relief and Rehabilitation has been transformed into the Department of Disaster Management with a more robust and wider role focusing on comprehensive disaster management, and has been responsible for implementation of the national disaster management related policies and plans at all levels.
National Plan for Disaster Management 2010-15
According to the National Plan for Disaster Management 2010-15, the vision of the government is to reduce the risk of people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, from the effects of natural, environmental and human induced hazards, to a manageable and acceptable humanitarian level, and to have in place an efficient emergency response system capable of handling large scale disasters. The Plan envisages a group of broad-based strategies:
- Disaster management would involve the management of both risks and consequences of disasters that would include prevention emergency response and post-disaster recovery.
- Community involvement for preparedness programmes for protecting lives and properties would be a major focus. Involvement of local government bodies would be and essential part of the strategy. Self-reliance should be the key for preparedness, response and recovery.
- Non-structural mitigation measures such as community disaster preparedness training advocacy and public awareness must be given a high priority; this would require an integration of structural mitigation with non-structural measures.
The scope of the Plan includes:
a) Analyze the natural and man-made disaster threats including climate change to their people and society, economy and infrastructure, with a view to identifying where and when these threats are likely to occur and in what frequency.
b) Identify by further detailed analysis who and what are vulnerable to the occurrence of these threats and how these are likely to be affected by them.
c) Investigate what measures are possible to prevent occurrence of the disaster events, (unlikely to be possible in the case of the natural phenomenon but possible in the case of man-made disasters and environmental degradation), what can be done to mitigate the affects of disaster events and what disaster preparedness measures can be put in place in anticipation of these.
d) Determine where responsibilities for prevention, mitigation and preparedness planning and action should lie in the Government, non-government organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.
e) Make provision in the national budget for funding of activities related to Disaster Reduction and a contingency fund to meet the immediate needs of disaster relief, at all administrative levels of the administration.
f) Ensure that the costs of disaster relief and post-disaster recovery are managed and coordinated by a high level committee to avoid duplication or waste across the spectrum of donor agencies, including government, national and international NGOs and the private sector.
g) Ensure an effective system within Government to link and coordinate the processes of planning and the management of sustainable development, environmental management and disaster reduction.
The priorities of the National Plan for Disaster Management (NPDM) 2010-2015 endorsed by the National Disaster Management Council in 2010 have been embedded in all the government high level policy and operation documents. The current’s government’s ‘Vision 2021’ sets‘Effective Disaster Management’ as one of the sub-goals and puts emphasis on seasonal flood and drought mitigation, establishing of an effective early warning and evacuation mechanism, and development of a natural disaster insurance scheme to compensate thephysical and property damage.
The Bangladesh Perspective Plan 2010-2021, Sixth Five Year Plan 2011-2015 and National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) have provisions and emphasis to implement NPDM. The local level (Upazila) development planning proforma is being revised by the Local Government Division where inputs provided by Ministry of Disaster Management & Relief to make it more inclusive for disaster risk reduction.
The Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme
The Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) is a product of this change in approach. It has two goals: to facilitate a paradigm shift in disaster management in Bangladesh away from relief and rehabilitation towards risk reduction, and to foster a holistic, multi-hazard approach to reducing the nation’s risks and vulnerabilities to human-induced and natural hazards.
The first phase (CDMP 1) laid the foundations for institutionalizing a risk reduction framework and Phase II (CDMP II) is designed to further expand this pioneering approach. CDMP’s activities include knowledge building and policy support with and through the government, as well as community level interventions to reach the most vulnerable section of the population. Communities are now integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation measures and are more resilient.
CDMP II aims to further reduce Bangladesh’s vulnerability to adverse natural and anthropogenic hazards and extreme events, including the devastating potential impacts of climate change. It will do so through risk management and mainstreaming. CDMP II is a natural expansion and a logical scaling up of its first phase. That pioneering phase laid the foundations for institutionalising the risk reduction approaches and frameworks developed through pilot testing. CDMP II aims to institutionalise the adoption of risk reduction approaches, not just in its host Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, but more broadly across thirteen key ministries and agencies.
CDMP II (2010-2014) is a vertical and horizontal expansion of its Phase I activities designed based on the achievements, lessons learned and the strong foundation laid during CDMP I by continuing the processes initiated, deriving actions from the lessons learned, utilizing knowledge resources generated and knowledge products published. The approach of CDMP II is to channel support through government and development partners, civil society and NGOs into a people-oriented disaster management and risk reduction partnership. That partnership will promote cooperation, provide coordination, rank priority programmes and projects, and allocate resources to disaster management activities, risk reduction activities and climate change adaptation activities in Bangladesh.
CDMP II offers an outstanding opportunity to improve linkages with, and synergies between, disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change. This applies both at the community and at the general stakeholder level. The linkages are clearly expressed in many of the activities outlined in the operational outcomes of the project design, as well as through strengthened institutional capacities.
Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD)
The Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) was first issued in 1997. However, successive governments did not take any action in this regard and the SOD continued as merely a government approved policy document. After the AL came to power in 2009, the draft SOD was approved in 2010. The SOD has been revised with the avowed objective of making the concerned persons understand and perform their duties and responsibilities regarding disaster management at all levels. All Ministries/ Divisions/ Departments/ Agencies shall incorporate disaster risk reduction considerations into their sectoral development plans, and those having emergency management responsibilities shall prepare their own contingency plans and train their staff accordingly.
This provides a detailed institutional framework for disaster risk reduction and emergency management. It outlines detailed roles and the responsibilities of ministries, divisions, departments, various committees at different levels, and other organisations involved in disaster risk reduction and emergency management.
Cyclone Shelter Construction, Maintenance and Management Policy 2011
The Cyclone Shelter Construction, Maintenance and Management Policy 2011 was formulated by the Disaster Management & Relief Division (DMRD) to ensure proper use of the multi-purpose cyclone shelters that have already been constructed, under construction and to be constructed in the coastal areas.
Disaster Management Act 2012
The Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2012 was approved by the Parliament on September 2012 after a long collective effort by the government and development and civil society actors to create a legislative tool under which disaster and emergency management will be undertaken. It has placed mandatory obligations and responsibilities on ministries and committees, and ensures transparency and accountability in the overall disaster management system.
The objectives of the Act are substantial reduction of the overall risks of disasters to an acceptable level with appropriate risk reduction interventions; effective implementation of post disaster emergency response; rehabilitation and recovery measures; provision of emergency humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable community people; strengthening of institutional capacity for effective coordination of disaster management involving government and non-government organisations, and establishing a disaster management system capable of dealing with all hazards for the country.
The DMA will help in promoting a comprehensive disaster management programme upholding the all-hazard, all-risk and all-sector approach where risk reduction as a core element of disaster management has equal emphasis with emergency response management with greater focus on equitable and sustainable development.
Draft National Disaster Management Policy
The draft National Disaster Management Policy provides that the Disaster Management Vision of the Government of Bangladesh is to reduce the risk of people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, from the effects of natural, environmental and human induced hazards, to a manageable and acceptable humanitarian level, and to have in place an efficient emergency response system capable of handling large scale disasters.
The Mission is to bring a paradigm shift in disaster management from conventional response and relief practice to a more comprehensive risk reduction culture. The Overall Objective is to strengthen the capacity of the Bangladesh disaster management system to reduce unacceptable risk and improve response and recovery management at all levels.
Recently, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, with the assistance of experts and stakeholders, redrafted the National Disaster Management Policy, which made provision to mainstream disaster risk reduction into public-private partnership. The policy has made references to relevant sectoral policies, operational guidelines and procedures.
Although Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, it also has a long history of coping with and managing major disasters. The government and the people have a wealth of experience in preparing for, and responding to, disaster events. Clear recognition must go to the government for its long history of work in response and preparedness for responding to natural disasters.
In recent years, Bangladesh has been increasingly recognised as a leader in adopting a more holistic approach to risk reduction. In line with the global shift in thinking on approaches to disasters, the current government is working relentlessly to reduce the risk of people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, from the effects of natural, environmental and human induced hazards, to a manageable and acceptable humanitarian level. It is therefore apt that the UNDP recently commented that Bangladesh has become a global leader in its institutional framework for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, with a number of core government policies and programmes incorporating risk reduction from their earliest stages.
- Wazed M A, “National Progress Report on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2011-2013)”, 30 April 2013
- Luxbacher K and Uddin A M K, “World Resources Report Case Study: Bangladesh’s Comprehensive Approach to Disaster Management”, World Resources Institute
- The Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (Phase II), Ministry of Disaster Management And Relief, Bangladesh
- Ernst, Michael J., Islam M. Faisal, Gerard J. Gill, and Muhammad Taher. Bangladesh Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme: Mid-Term Review. 2007
- Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 2010. National Plan for Disaster Management 2010-2015. Disaster Management Bureau, Disaster Management and Relief Division, Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, 2010.
- “Bangladesh: Disaster Risk Reduction as Development”, United Nations Development Programme Case Study