The Policy Times Dhaka Bureau (June 12) :
Coastal Members of Bangladesh Parliament (MPs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and experts urged a budget allocation of at least BDT 15000 crore from revenue in the national budget 2021-22 for the coastal protection, particularly for climate-resilient embankment construction. Today from a virtual seminar, speakers also suggested that the government develop an embankment maintenance strategy and ensure effective involvement of local government in the process. The seminar was organized jointly by COAST Foundation, Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihood (CSRL), Center for Participatory Research & Development (CPRD), and Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN).
Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP and the Chair of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change was the Chief Guest of the seminar while it was moderated by Mr. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of COAST and Ziaul Hoque Mukta of CSRL. Mr. Narayon Chandra Chanda MP Khulna-5, Mr. Mir Mushtaque Ahmed Robi MP Satkhira-2, Mr. Nurunnabi Chowdhury MP Bhola-3, Mr. Nahim Razzaq MP Shariatpur-3, Mr. Asheq Ullah Rafiq MP Cox’s Bazar-2, Mr. Shameem Haider Patwary MP Gaibandha-1, Mr. Zafar Alam MP Cox’s Bazar-1, Dr. Ainun Nishat, Professor Emeritus BRAC University, Md Shamsuddoha of CPRD and Hasan Mehedi of CLEAN also spoke at the occasion. The keynote was presented by Syed Aminul Hoque of COAST.
In a keynote presentation, Aminul Hoque of COAST said that every year cyclone and monsoon floods are damaging the livelihood structures of the coastal areas and cause suffering of the coastal people. But the government has ignored the sufferings and proposing a conventional budget for embankment construction which is not appropriate to address the issues. He put three demands, such as (i) Government have to allocate at least BDT 150 billion [15000 crores] every year as the minimum requirement for embankment construction (ii) Local governments have to be given mandate with a budget for embankment maintenance and (iii) Govt. should have a plan of alternatives for coastal protection especially for natural protection, skill-oriented education to facilitate employment for the coastal population while they migrate, govt should also ensure ith water & sewerage facilities in cities.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP said that a national risk assessment is needed that will support the government in allocating appropriate resources. He demanded a roadmap on this issue along with preparing an embankment policy.
Dr.Ainun Nishat said political biases should be minimized for prioritization and budget allocation that is absent in embankment planning. The projects under the “Delta Plan” have been taken without consideration of local knowledge. Mir Mushtaque Ahmed Robi MP said investment in coastal protection will return double. So the budget must be increased.
Asheq Ullah Rafiq MP said we are unable to ensure tidal surge-based forecasting. That’s why some areas of Cox’s Bazar district were affected and damaged recently. We need a district-wise budget for the embankment. MP Nahim Razzaq said comprehensive water management system and planning is very essential to reduce the effect of coastal disaster. This only possible by ensuring inter-ministerial coordination. We can form a “Caucus” with coastal MPs to strengthen the advocacy on this issue. Shameem Haider Patwary MP said that embankment construction strategy and approach will have to be integrated with all sort of economic activities than it will get priority to government.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury called for a long-term integrated and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction program for coastal protection, which would include migration-facilitated education for coastal residents.
According to Ziaul Hoque Mukta, embankments must be evaluated and prioritized based on disaster impact, and solutions must take into account the agro-ecological settings There should be coordination in the planning and implementation where NGOs, people representatives also be a part of the government.