With Indian help, Bangladesh mulls long-term disaster management


Dhaka : With a helping hand from India, Bangladesh wants to discuss organising and funding of long-term disaster management measures, especially in the Bay of Bengal, with all nations and agencies that are its development partners.

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The idea, media reports said, is to confront a common problem. Hurricane Sidr that hit Bangladesh Nov 15 had brushed past the Indian territory before devastating Bangladesh’s coastal areas, moving north and then to northeast towards India’s Meghalaya and Tripura provinces.

New Delhi’s offer to adopt 10 worst-hit Bangladeshi villages, made during Saturday’s visit here by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, appears to have gone off well with Dhaka.

Foreign Adviser Iftekhar A. Chowdhury told The Daily Star Saturday night that India’s help fitted into Bangladesh’s broader plans for relief and durable rehabilitation for the Sidr-affected zone.

“It is a part of a plan to ensure sustainable development in the area,” he said.

The Bangladesh government sees this as an opportunity to protect the coastal areas against future natural disasters and make them adaptable to the effects of climate change.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed is likely to propose a number of medium- and long-term relief and rehabilitation programmes for Sidr-affected areas when he meets donors Monday as part of “a broad plan to rebuild a more durable region for future disasters”, the newspaper said Sunday.

The proposals will include economic rehabilitation, infrastructure development, disaster preparedness programmes and climate adaptation programmes to strengthen the region’s defence against future natural disasters, a high-level government official told the newspaper.

Ahmed discussed these proposals with Mukherjee.

The government plans to incorporate a number of these proposals in its pitch for designing a broad and organised rehabilitation effort for donors.

Well placed government sources said the chief adviser’s proposals include a number of ideas for “sustainable” reconstruction of the devastated region and would look to rebuild houses with durable structures and better disaster preparedness systems through improved cyclone shelters.

One of the proposals is to build “cluster shelters” that would accommodate people from a number of villages rather than building small shelters, while another proposes concrete housing instead of corrugated iron structures.

Donors already have plans to provide livelihood support to farmers and the large fishing community in the coastal areas.

During his visit here, Mukherjee told the media that he had discussed with Ahmed a comprehensive plan for the rebuilding process of areas worst hit by Cyclone Sidr, especially for economic rehabilitation.

He said India would be looking into providing livelihood support programmes for the devastated fishing communities by giving financial support for buying new boats and nets. Mukherjee added they also discussed providing similar support for farmers.

Mukherjee and Ahmed also discussed working with agricultural scientists to plant a substitute crop in place of Aman, which was destroyed in the cyclone.

As immediate help, India is allowing imports by Bangladesh of a million tonnes of rice, utilizing its scarce surplus stocks, even risking a possible shortage in its public distribution system operations.