Despite Bangladesh’s good reputation in dealing with natural disasters, a TIB study found a significant lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the government in dealing with recent natural disasters, including Cyclone Amphan.
The study has also identified between 14.36% and 76.92% corruption in four climate change projects, including coastal infrastructure development, renovation, and repair.
In addition, the projects were also found to be plagued by lack of skill, management, absence of coordination with weather forecasters, the ineffectiveness of union-level disaster management committees, and lack of coordination between government and private stakeholders.
TIB unveiled the study titled “Governance Challenges in Disaster Response and Way Forward: Cyclone Amphan and other Recent Experiences” on 24 December 2020 through an online press conference. The study aimed to review the improvement and challenges of good governance in dealing with recent natural disasters and previous four disasters, including Cyclone Amphan.
The study collected the data of initial preparedness, relief distribution and rehabilitation initiatives of the last five major natural disasters, including cyclones Sidr (2007), Aila (2009), Roanu (2016), Amphan (2020) and the flooding in 2019. The data were collected from May to December 2020 and was analysed in light of 6 indicators of good governance, i.e., compliance with laws and policies, transparency, capability, accountability, participation, irregularities-corruption and coordination.
Adviser Executive Management Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Research & Policy Director Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan presented the report while TIB Outreach & Communication Director Sheikh Manjur-E-Alam conducted the event.
The study found that political power and personal interest had played a significant role in constructing shelters and dams. Under the indicator of transparency, the study found that hotline numbers were not disseminated among the affected population, including the release of disaster forecast information and warning messages in some remote areas.
The researchers said, even six months after Cyclone Amphan, the dam in Satkhira’s Ashashuni had not been repaired, leaving about 20,000 people homeless. There was also a lack of practical initiatives to conduct disaster drills, assess relief needs and identify and evacuate at-risk populations.
The study also pointed out the lack of transparency in disclosing information, including reporting on actual loss, relief distribution, and authentic local beneficiaries’ assessment numbers. During the post-disaster period, the study observed inadequacies in emergency healthcare and sanitation alongside a lack of steps to reform and reconstruct educational institutions. Furthermore, the Water Development Board’s inefficiency was evident in dam repairs, resulting in floods and displacement of people. A section of the extremely poor was displaced due to a lack of immediate and long-term rehabilitation in nearby towns, forcing them to move to the capital.
The study further observed that political considerations at different levels of dealing with the disasters led to lower allocation in the worst affected districts. Besides, there was a considerable lack of effective initiatives to comply with international disaster management commitments, national laws, policies and orders.
In addition, irregularities and corruption in the construction and maintenance of disaster-resilient infrastructure (shelters, dams, roads, etc.) intensified the economic sufferings of the vulnerable people. Still, there has been a lack of adequate procedures to hold the system and the individual accountable.
Speaking at the programme, TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, “The study has shown that there are deficiencies in terms of every indicator of good governance. Because of the growing natural disasters and the lack of good governance, there is still a loss of about 2.2 per cent national income a year. Since Bangladesh has done well in dealing with disasters and has adequate preparedness and capacity, it is possible to do better by avoiding existing deficits.”
He further added that there was a kind of complacency as Bangladesh had become habituated to dealing with disasters. Therefore, the long-term challenges in dealing with disasters are neglected. He stressed that the relevant authorities should take the findings and recommendations of this study seriously enough and take steps to address these shortcomings and challenges.”
TIB made a 12-point recommendation to deal with the disaster, including updating the existing warning system and conducting campaigns in easily accessible language. The recommendations also included providing timely forecasts and warnings with more importance in high-risk areas and carrying out relief and rehabilitation programmes with transparency prioritising the most vulnerable families and regions.
TIB Climate Finance Governance (CFG) unit Deputy Programme Manager Md. Newazul Mowla, Climate Finance Policy and Integrity (CFPI) unit Assistant Programme Manager Kazi Abu Saleh, CFPI Programme Manager Md. Mahfuzul Haque, CGF Assistant Manager Razu Ahmad Masum, and CFG Senior Programme Manager M Zakir Hossain Khan also attended the event.
Details of the research report can be found here.