Sustainable development planning needed in the Jamuna-Brahmaputra River basin
International climate experts have urged sustainable planning in the Jamuna-Brahmaputra River basin to deal with the negative effects of climate change and reduce disaster risk.
They also called for coordinated and long-term initiatives by various public and private organisations to improve the quality of life of the communities on the riverbanks and sedimentary islands of the remote northern regions of Bangladesh.
Speakers from the panel of experts called for the measures at a roundtable discussion organised by Friendship SPO in the capital, Dhaka on Wednesday, 18 October on 'Challenges, Innovations and Action Plans’, reads a press release.
Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, Nazmul Ahsan joined the roundtable discussion as the chief guest. He drew the attention of local and foreign development cooperation organisations to improve the quality of life of char (river island) residents by highlighting the socio-economic conditions, ecology and health aspects.
Runa Khan, founder of Friendship, highlighted the lives, livelihoods, socio-economic conditions, adversities and geo-logistical limitations of char communities the remote northern regions of Bangladesh.
She said, “In facing the challenges of regular natural calamities and climate change, the people of the Jamuna-Brahmaputra basin are deprived of development opportunities and their rights. Since 2002, Friendship has been trying to involve them in the development of the country. As part of this, the organisation has coordinated with local governments to build capacity and awareness, as well as climate changed adaptation and disaster prevention, preparedness and response.”
Eric Orsenna, chairman of Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers (IFGR) aka Initiatives pour l'Avenir des Grands Fleuves (IAGF), presented the experiences and observations from his field visit to the climate-affected river islands. He said that compared to other deltaic plains in the world, the residents of Jamuna-Brahmaputra Char are far behind in terms of health, education and socio-economic conditions.
In particular, they have to face the challenges of natural disasters like floods, land erosion, droughts, tropical storms and heavy rains, all of which are exacerbated by climate change.
Kazi Amdadul Haque, senior director of Friendship’s Climate Action sector highlighted the success and activities of Friendship in at-risk and climate-induced disaster-affected areas. He said that Friendship has continued various activities to deal with disasters for almost 20 years.
21 special settlements in the form of raised plateaus, called plinths, have been constructed in the char areas of the Jamuna-Brahmaputra river basin. These elevated, oval settlements are built around a freshwater pond to be used as shelters during disasters. Each plinth has a school, a community center, livestock shed, 5-7 tube wells, and an equal number of sanitary latrines. Thus, more than 500 families can take shelter on these plinths during disasters.
He also said that Friendship has piloted four climate-resistant houses made of local materials in the southern coastal area. Besides this, a comprehensive mangrove afforestation programme is operational on 152 hectares of land, featuring 12 community-managed nurseries.
Marc Elvinger, Chair of Friendship Luxembourg and Co-Chair of Friendship International, water and river experts from various European countries, Bangladesh Meteorological Department, Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre and experts from public and private organisations participated in the roundtable discussion.
They urged everyone to work together for the continuous development of the char-dwellers, who are among the most climate-affected and marginalised populations of a developing country that is the seventh most vulnerable to climate change in the world, according to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI).