Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) called upon the relevant institutions of the Government to ensure fairness in allocation and distribution of relief, maintain equity in the allocation and establish effective accountability through identifying probable challenges in disaster management especially cyclone responses. To overcome the challenges, TIB urged to concerned authorities to adopt sustained steps in response to disaster. Such calls were made in a press conference organized to release a research study titled, “Cyclone Roanu: Challenges of Good Governance in Disaster Management and Way Forward” on 1 February, 2017 by TIB.
Advocate Sultana Kamal, Chairperson of TIB Board of Trustees presided over the event while Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director; Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Deputy Executive Director; and Dr. Rafiqul Hassan, Director, Research and Policy, TIB were also present at the event. M Zakir Hossain Khan, Senior Programme Manager, Climate Finance Governance (CFG), and Nihar Ranjan Roy, Deputy Programme Manager, Research and Policy (R&P), TIB presented the study findings and recommendations at the event, accompanied by Nahid Sharmin, Deputy Programme Manager, R&P; and Newazul Mawla, Deputy Programme Manager, CFG, TIB.
Followed by the presentation, TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, disaster management model of Bangladesh has been appreciated nationally and internationally. To elevate this achievement towards higher level and ensure its versatile perfection, and to sustain the core elements of good governance in the mainstream of disaster management in Bangladesh, this study identified the governance challenges of pre-cyclone preparedness and post-cyclone emergency response. TIB expects that the presented findings, information, analysis and recommendations of this study will be instrumental in ensuring transparency, accountability, citizen’s participation and integrity in adopted steps of disaster management in Bangladesh, and the study would contribute in formulating national and international policy framework, he added.
Citing the study findings and recommendations, Dr. Zaman also said, it is possible to achieve efficiency in disaster management up to a level where a natural calamity like cyclone Ruano won’t be able to take a single human life. However, to attain such ability, accurate risks should be assessed first, and it is essential to ensure transparency, accountability, citizen’s participation and integrity in addressing these risks.
The study has identified some positive efforts in the preparation for the cyclone Roanu. Major steps were to keep posting the updated information about the situation of cyclone Roanu on the website of Disaster Management Department (DMD); DMD authority has given instruction through e-mail to deputy commissioner and Upazila Nirbahi Officer for taking the necessary measures and the announcement of the signal accordingly. Moreover, local level volunteers have adopted different measures to rescue vulnerable communities, though they were not adequately equipped with necessary equipments. In addition, disaster management committee arranged a meeting at both Zila and Upazila level. Besides, as emergency relief five crore Taka was allocated for supply of dry foods and also 80, 52,000 taka has been allocated from the DMD to local administration. In addition, local authorities have reserved the dry foods locally for tackling the emergency situation.
Though the government has taken some positive initiatives in combating Roanu, the study observed weak governance in pre and post disaster periods of cyclone Roanu. Losses and damages due to the cyclone could be reduced, if the government would have taken proper initiatives such as timely disclosures of relevant information about warning signals and the relief allocations, active participation of communities in preparing the list if affected people, fair allocation and distributed the relief, properly constructed and maintained the cyclone shelter.
The study identified Governance challenges in responses to pre-cyclone Roanu and post-cyclone emergency response of the government, along with identifying process of the beneficiary selection for the rehabilitation programme. The findings of the research were analyzed on the basis of four governance related indicators which are transparency, accountability, participation, and integrity. Challenges identified in transparency are inadequate information regarding cyclone risk, lack of initiative to disseminate warning in remote areas, and lack of information to maintenance the cyclone shelter. Specified challenges identified in accountability are prior to cyclone Roanu failure to identify the risks of lose and damages properly by concerned authorities and local government, inadequate initiatives to evacuate the vulnerable people and a part of cyclone shelter was not useable due to lack of maintenance. Besides, challenges like absence of arrangement of regular rehearsal programme for building awareness and absence of community participation in maintaining the cyclone shelter were identified by participation indicator. Finally, the challenges in integrity are not taking actions regarding using the cyclone shelter by influential persons for personal purposes and cyclone shelters were not built in proper place due to the influence of powerful political persons.
At the post-cyclone period, the governance challenges identified by the study were: not disclosing the information regarding beneficiary selection process and requirement, allocation and distribution of relief; lack of coordination between government and non-government organization in selecting the beneficiary and distributing the relief some unions; absence of public grievance redress mechanism to lodge complain about relief allocation and distribution, Moreover, absence of participation of cyclone affected people in beneficiary selection process as well as in assessing the loss and damage in some areas of research areas; losses and damages determined by the local government representatives arbitrarily in some areas; irregularities and corruption in preparing the list of affected people; corruption in the relief distribution process and giving more importance to political supporter rather affected people in distributing the relief in some areas of five unions.
After analyzing the findings, the study identified causes, results and impacts of weak governances. It is found that due to lack of coordination in disseminating warning signal, cyclone warning signals did not reach in remote areas and broadcast of wrong signal. For discrimination in distributing the relief, absence of disclosure of information about the relief distribution was witnessed and improper allocating and distributing the relief was seen. For not applying the Right to Information Act, abuse of power, partiality, and nepotism in the beneficiary selections took place and cyclone shelters were not built in proper locations and absence of grievance redress mechanism was found. For legal limitations and Poor accountability mechanism, Cyclone shelters were not useable and failed to ensure fairness and integrity in allocation and distribution of relief and absence of initiatives to maintain the cyclone shelters were identified. Due to lack of proper monitoring and Political influences in building cyclone shelter, a faulty list of loss and damages of households were prepared.
Given the state of governance at both pre and post responses to mitigate the disaster like a cyclone, the study came up with a set of recommendations for Disaster Management related organizations and duty bearers among which the most important recommendations were: Proper assessment of cyclone related lose and damage risks and adoption of steps including proper dissemination of risks to the community accordingly; through effective coordination of government and non-government organizations to ensure the best uses of community radio and mobile phone along with the existing cyclone warning system for proper dissemination of warning signals especially in remote and vulnerable areas; Coordination between Disaster Management Department and Meteorological Department should be increased for proper dissemination of the warning signal. Besides, accountability of electronic media should be ensured for broadcasting the proper warning signal; Effective measures should be adopted to evacuate and rescue vulnerable people to safe place through coordination among local government representative, GO and NGO and volunteer organizations; For regular maintenance of existing cyclone shelters, concerned schools should approve adequate budget and human resources from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief; Cyclone shelters should be constructed at appropriate cyclone-prone locations and cyclone shelters maintenance and management committees should be reformed through participation of vulnerable local communities; DMD should take initiatives to ensure the proper coordination between all government and non-government stakeholders in allocation and distribution of the relief; and Appropriate legal actions should be taken against corrupt individuals and organizations are involved in the corrupt practice during construction of cyclone shelters, relief allocation and distribution and at the same time positive incentives for remarkable contribution of the relevant employee should be provided.