Agriculture, fisheries, livestock, health face losses due to severe heatwave

At the seminarNAYAN KAR

The continuous heatwave in April this year in Bangladesh has broken a 76-year record for high temperatures. All sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and health, have been affected by the excessive heat. Boro paddy cultivation is particularly threatened by the hot weather. Mango buds have fallen, and there has been a 25 per cent loss in milk, egg, and meat production. Comprehensive preparations should be made to deal with such extreme weather conditions. Scientists express concern that extreme climate change events will increase and there is no immediate solution.

Climate experts made such statements in a seminar held at Renaissance Hotel, Gulshan, Dhaka, on Thursday, 23 May 2024, organised by BRAC’s Climate Change Programme. The objective of the seminar was to inform and sensitise policymakers, academics, media, and civil society on the science-policy-practice nexus of heatwaves. The seminar was chaired by Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC.

At the seminar, Chief Guest Dr. Farhina Ahmed, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said, “We are working on incorporating the health aspect of climate change into the National Adaptation Plan (NAP). Specific actions and interventions related to the effect of heatwaves on health shall be undertaken so our healthcare systems can be better prepared to tackle these issues. We also need to build capacity and awareness among diverse groups in the population so that citizens are better equipped to combat the effects of extreme heatwaves.”

She added, “We need to prepare our engineers and architects to develop infrastructure and designs that emphasise nature-based solutions. We must retrofit our current infrastructure and bring in new technologies to reduce heat generation.” She appreciated BRAC for organising such a timely discussion.

Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC

In his closing remarks Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, said, “Marginalised communities are the most vulnerable to any type of disaster. We saw it during COVID-19, during the economic crisis, and in the impacts of climate change. Those who do not have a voice and those who have no one to listen to them are most at risk. Unfortunately, marginalised communities are suffering the most for something they are not responsible for. I applaud our policymakers, particularly the Honourables Prime Minister and the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change who are advocating globally for not just Bangladesh but all the climate-vulnerable countries. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve just climate financing for climate adaptation.”

Bushra Afreen, Chief Heat Officer at Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), remarked, “The city of Dhaka was never built with heat resilience in mind. With very limited resources and keeping sustainability in mind, we must all work together and enact the commitments we make.”

Presenting research on the heatwave, Dr. Md. Liakath Ali, Director of the Climate Change Programme, Urban Development Programme, and Disaster Risk Management Programme at BRAC, said, “According to media sources, nationwide Boro rice production may decrease 6-16 per cent, and 30 per cent of mango bud fell off due to prolonged drought followed by heatwaves. Moreover, the poultry industry lost BDT 200 crore in recent two weeks of heatwaves. The estimated loss of dairy products (milk, eggs, and meat) was 25 per cent. Labour-intensive sectors suffere an output loss of BDT 50,000 crore in Dhaka City alone. Dhaka is losing USD 6 billion worth of labour productivity per year due to heat stress. As a result, by 2030, Bangladesh could lose 5 per cent of its total productivity, equivalent to nearly 4 million full-time jobs, and experience GDP losses of up to 4.9 per cent.”

Dharitri Kumar Sarkar, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Dr. Md. Shameem Hassan Buiyan, Deputy Director and Dr. Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik, Meteorologist, Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD); and Dr. A.K.M. Saiful Islam, Professor, Institute of Water and Flood Management at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), actively participated in the discussion session. The welcome and introductory remarks at the event were delivered by Tapas Ranjan Chakraborty, Senior Programme Manager, Climate Change Programme at BRAC.

Notably, BRAC’s Climate Change Programme, in collaboration with MIT has initiated a flagship project titled, ‘Jameel Observatory-CREWSnet’ to help mitigate the risks posed by climate change and help prepare for its ongoing impacts. The project aims to empower communities and institutions by communicating projected climate information and enhancing data-driven proactive decision-making. 'Jameel Observatory-CREWSnet' seeks to bridge the gap between the knowledge about climate change created at research institutions such as MIT and the local farming communities that are adapting to its impacts.