Nearly 60% of Bangladesh’s population is exposed to high flood risk, according to a new report.
The report published on Wednesday by Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Centre for Climate Change Economics also mentioned that around 45% are exposed to high fluvial flood risk, the highest figure in the world.
Climate change is exacerbating this risk and causing damage with an increasingly high financial and humanitarian cost, it said.
The reports claimed that floods currently submerge an average of 20–25% of Bangladesh’s land area every year, and extreme flood events submerge 55–60% of the country.
“Bangladesh is highly prone to flooding because of its location in the Bengal Delta and its low-lying, flat topography. Several factors linked to climate change are increasing the country’s flood risk, including the increasing frequency of extreme precipitation events and more erratic rainfall.”
The research predicts that the magnitude of peak river flow could increase by 36% on average under a high-emissions scenario and by 16% under a low-emissions scenario by 2070–2099 relative to 1971–2000.
Overall, between 2000 and 2019, Bangladesh was ranked seventh among the countries most affected by climate change globally with much of this impact being associated with flooding.
Without greater adaptation action and resilience-building, the humanitarian and economic costs of flooding in Bangladesh, which are already high, are expected to increase further due to climate change.
Between 1971 and 2014, 78 floods caused the deaths of 41,783 people and total economic damage of $12.2 billion, mainly through damage to crops and property, exacerbated by a lack of insurance.
The Asian Development Bank estimated that in 2014 alone, flood-related damages cost the Bangladesh economy approximately $2.2 billion equivalent to 1.5% of its GDP.
Floods last year are estimated to have cost the country $1 billion and affected 7.3 million people.
The report mentioned that Bangladesh is a low-emitting country, contributing just 0.25% of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.
However, the agriculture and energy sectors are responsible for most of the country’s emissions, contributing 44% and 39% respectively, and are estimated to peak in 2040.
Therefore, limiting climate change’s contribution to increasing the risk of flooding depends on global mitigation efforts, especially from high-emitting industrial countries, the report said.
Early efforts to address flooding that focus on structural measures such as building embankments have not been fully effective and in places may have made flood-prone areas appear safer than they are, in turn exposing a higher share of the population to flood risk, it added.
The report said more recent government policies have adopted a “living with floods” approach, using measures such as discouraging settlements in high-risk zones and providing water-resistant construction materials and salt-resistant crops.
According to the report, barriers to implementing more effective flood risk management in Bangladesh include insufficient knowledge about vulnerabilities and local needs; a lack of capacity in local institutions such as the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief; governance issues; and poor access to funding for investment in adaptation.
Governance of flood and disaster risk could be improved through needs assessments, more community participation, better coordination between government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and between government agencies themselves, the report suggested.