Category: Defence

Desert locust outbreak highlights gaps in risk governance

Desert locust outbreak highlights gaps in risk governance

By Monique Bennett  

The desert locust outbreak requires several levels of response from national and regional governance structures.

We know that environmental disasters are a function of our disregard for the environment we have been entrusted to steward. The current desert locust plague is a timely reminder that the consequences of climate change enables environmental disasters beyond just extreme weather. The warming of the Indian Ocean, caused by anthropogenic heat, has helped increase the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones, creating favourable conditions for desert locust breeding and mutation.

In 2019, the North Indian Ocean experienced its most active cyclone season ever recorded. This created ideal locust breeding and survival grounds across the Arabian Peninsula. Desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) occur in swarms due to a particular combination of weather, soil and vegetation conditions that complement their reproduction and mutation from an otherwise solitary creature into one that matures and develops into speedy swarms (gregarisation) of up to 150 million locusts⁠. This mutation makes the desert locust one of the most destructive insect groups when met with cropland.

The very nature of a desert locust disaster calls for a policy approach that must intersect with many levels of governance. Disaster risk management (DRM) for desert locusts requires early reaction, efficient control and monitoring and, fundamentally, a prevention approach. What makes desert locusts such a devastating pest is their ability to rapidly develop into swarms, migrate across regions and states, quickly destroying cropland. A swarm the size of Paris can eat as much as half the population of France in one day. East Africa is currently experiencing the worst desert locust outbreak in decades. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that over 42 million people are facing acute food insecurity in the ten affected countries.

Despite early warning by The Desert Locust Watch agency during the 2019 cyclone season, the invasion could not be stopped in time. Knowledge on the ecology of desert locusts has developed considerably over time, but without international policy and implementation cooperation, understanding the species is not enough. National governments must domesticate the procedures and strategies agreed upon at the regional level. In 1962, the Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA) was established to unify cooperation between the governments of Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The DLCO-EA hoped to ensure cooperation in the control of desert locust plagues across the region. Despite having the necessary scientific understanding of how to deal with the locusts, the organisation has struggled to deal with the magnitude of the current outbreak.

The desert locust disaster is an example of the disconnect between the actions of regional organisations and the preparedness of national locust control units. Ria Sen, Disaster Risk Reduction expert with the World Food Programme, asserts that although quantitative risk modelling is an important aspect of preparedness, grasping the context-specific scenario within affected states will ultimately determine the success or failure of a disaster risk management plan.

In the case of Ethiopia, policies do exist to ensure preparedness and risk management planning for disasters affecting the country. The federal agency responsible for their implementation has lagged and only half of the districts across the country have obtained the DRM plans and profiling since 2009. Coupled with the current political disputes between the Tigray Region and the federal government, the ability of the Plant Protection Division and Crop Protection Departments to support the implementation of local-level systems is highly constrained. Ethiopia continues to battle the recent upsurge of swarms in the north. If tensions continue to escalate between Tigray and the national government, the impact of the locust invasion will worsen.

Like most other environmental disasters, the desert locust outbreak requires several levels of response from governance structures both regional and national. Transnational governance response to environmental issues cannot act as a substitute for strong state-based governance. Strong national environmental policies create incentives for state and non-state actors to cooperate. The DLCO-EA should be complemented by member state investment into national and local level locust control policies so that they can work in synergy.

Key recommendations:

  • Countries and regional bodies must invest in further research and technology to improve the ability to predict and potentially prevent desert locust disasters.
  • Improve the early warning communication pathway between regional bodies like the FAO’s Desert Locust Watch and the affected countries.
  • Strengthen cooperation and engagement between the member states of the DLCO-EA, the Central Desert Locust Commission and the regional environmental centres.
  • Enhance coordination and prioritisation at a local and national level of prevention and control actions.
  • Increase resource allocation for disaster risk management bodies in advanced to avoid costly emergency response actions.

The implementation of these recommendations will help align existing regional and national governance structures to avoid prolonging the current outbreak and help prevent future related environmental disasters.


This blog post was originally posted on PreventionWeb.

Prioritising stakeholder engagement and securing funding for creating responses to climate change: Virtual structured dialogue for Belize’s Country Programme

Prioritising stakeholder engagement and securing funding for creating responses to climate change: Virtual structured dialogue for Belize’s Country Programme

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Belize is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Research indicates that climate change impacts could cost the twenty-four island nations of the Caribbean a total $11 billion by 2025, but these figures are likely to be an underestimate. The costs of inaction cannot be ignored. Exposure to rising sea levels and the increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes put the entire population and the future of the island at ever increasing risk. Their agriculture and tourism sectors are also highly sensitive to climate-related impacts, heightening vulnerability to rising temperatures and associated consequences on the country’s valuable natural resources. Any measures taken to address climatic impacts must make sure that they truly protect the vulnerable, and tailor resilience building to suit the needs of each community.

The world’s largest fund dedicated to taking action on climate change is the Green Climate Fund (known as the GCF). Currently capitalised at USD 9.7 billion, the GCF offers a life-line for these countries who have massive exposure to climate change impacts and little resource to adapt to them. But identifying the right actions for communities requires ensuring the sustained involvement from a range of stakeholders

Belize is receiving GCF-funding to support a variety of activities. As well as having projects like the  International Fund for Agriculture and Development’s (IFAD) project on climate-smart agricultural production, other projects exist to build the decision-making processes that Belize has, enabling them to continue to make participation accessible and sustainable for a whole range of stakeholders. Other projects, for example, seek to boost the country’s capacity for accessing international finance for investments in climate change projects, as part of the Fund’s Readiness programme, and is coordinated by the country’s National Designated Authority (NDA), the Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum (MEDP), in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). A Country Programme has also been developed to guide Belize’s engagement with the GCF, including an initial pipeline of project ideas that could be submitted to the Fund.

The second phase of Readiness activities sees new projects being implemented to strengthen Belize’s capacities to effectively and efficiently access, manage, disburse and monitor climate financing. One of these is a year-long project being delivered with Acclimatise, where a range of activities are being hosted, including virtual training events and structured dialogues, to help develop the country programme and develop sustainable ways for engaging with a range of stakeholders.

These Structured Dialogues start with presenting the Country Programme to range of stakeholders – from civil society, to private organisations, and other ministerial departments. Stakeholders are then encouraged to submit ideas for projects that could be funded by the GCF programme. Stakeholders, including the Belize National Climate Change Committee (BNCCC) then meet to gain a greater understanding of how the GCF works, and to discuss, refine, and prioritise the project ideas. The prioritised pipeline will be included in the Country Programme and validated in early 2021 through a second Structured Dialogue. By project completion, Belize will have developed a robust pipeline of projects and programmes for submission to the GCF as part of the fund’s first replenishment period of 2020-2023. Acclimatise is also helping Belize in their capacity for hosting these Structured Dialogues to help them facilitate their own stakeholder engagement in the future. The very first of these structured dialogues took place 20th-22nd October, 2020, and happened virtually due to the ongoing restrictions as a result of COVID-19.

Other on-going Readiness activities in Belize include support for the accreditation of the Development Finance Corporation and Social Investment Fund of Belize, readiness Support to the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT)- Capacity Building, and readiness Support for Strengthening Belize Private Sector Access to Climate Finance.


Image by James Willamor on Flickr.
How many people will migrate due to rising sea levels? Our best guesses aren’t good enough

How many people will migrate due to rising sea levels? Our best guesses aren’t good enough

By Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Celia McMichael, Ilan Kelman, Shouro Dasgupta

An article in 2011 shocked many by suggesting that up to 187 million people could be forced to leave their homes as a result of two metres of sea level rise by 2100. Almost a decade on, some of the latest estimates suggest that as many as 630 million people may live on land below projected annual flood levels by the end of the century.

The idea that rising seas will force millions to move, unleashing a refugee crisis like no other, has now become commonplace. It’s a narrative that the media are fond of, but that does not mean it is based on evidence.

The potential scale of sea level rise is becoming clearer, but this does not necessarily translate into population movements. Everything we have learned so far suggests that decisions to migrate are far more complex than a simple flight response.

In our new review article, we looked at 33 different studies that have estimated how sea level rise will affect migration patterns. Reliable estimates are important to help support vulnerable populations, but there is deep uncertainty around the amount of people who will be exposed to rising seas, and how they will respond.

Trapped populations

We looked carefully at the methods and data sets of these studies to try and tease out uncertainties. One issue plaguing their estimates is assumptions about the number of people who will be living in vulnerable low-lying areas in the future.

Most of the studies we reviewed did note that the connections between migration and sea level rise are incredibly complex. Every person directly affected isn’t guaranteed to move away as a result. People may be just as likely to try and protect their homes against the water, by building sea walls or elevating their houses.

It’s impossible to predict how each person will respond, and there are countless reasons why someone might choose to stay in the place they call home rather than move or seek shelter elsewhere. Those who may be forced to migrate and resettle due to climate change receive far more attention than those left behind. These so-called “trapped” populations can be just as vulnerable as those on the move, if not more so.

A wooden sailboat rests on a green bank next to a palm tree which has been overwhelmed by the rising water.
Despite flooding and erosion, many of the Bangladeshis we interviewed said they cannot or do not want to leave their home villages. Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Author provided

Research suggests that the decision to stay or leave will have as much to do with emotional and social pressures as financial or practical reasons. People may feel afraid or find it unbearable to leave, while others lack the necessary support. Many may feel obliged to stay due to binding social ties and reponsibilities.

How the health and wellbeing of those staying behind will be affected by rising seas is poorly investigated. More research is needed to understand the realities of staying put, for those who choose to stay and those who are unable to leave.

Where do we go from here?

Research on sea level rise and migration has often tried to obtain global estimates of those likely to be affected. These are useful for drawing attention to the potential scale of future impacts, but they lack local insights that could help make the picture clearer for different areas.

Rising sea levels are just one of the many ways climate change is remaking our world. Understanding how sea level rise interacts with other environmental changes, such as increased temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will be important, but this stretches the ability to predict exact migration numbers.

A young girl stands on a concrete bank as a red, wooden boat returns from fishing.
A young girl watches as a group of men return home from a fishing trip. Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Author provided

Despite all the unknowns, we do know that coastal changes wrought by climate change will be significant, and they require action now. That means devising measures to prevent or reduce inundation, figuring out how to live with the water, and planning for successful ways to migrate and resettle. Evaluating options, developing scenarios, and making decisions around this must happen now, rather than waiting for the issue to become more urgent.

It is just as important to avoid repeating myths around climate change triggering vast flows of people from the so-called “Global South” seeking refuge in the so-called “Global North”. We do know that people will not inevitably flee across borders in a warming world. Where migration does happen, movements within countries are often neglected on the likely flawed assumption that most migrants are crossing borders.

The narratives create unnecessary concern while shifting focus away from what really matters – helping vulnerable people. Not only do these myths reproduce xenophobic and outdated colonial power relations based on unfounded arguments, but they also create unnecessary fear and hostile environments for migrant populations around the world.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash.
UCCRTF delivers COVID-19 patient transfer vehicles to Marawi City

UCCRTF delivers COVID-19 patient transfer vehicles to Marawi City

By UCCRTF Secretariat

Marawi City, capital of the Philippine province of Lanao del Sur, is still recovering from the five-month long armed conflict in 2017 three years onward.

​The Battle of Marawi, fought between Philippine Government forces and groups affiliated with Islamic State terrorists, left the city’s critical infrastructure systems in crisis. The city has therefore struggled to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck as its resilience was low. As part of ongoing reconstruction efforts in Marawi, ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) has delivered patient monitoring and transport vehicles to Marawi City Health Office and Lanao del Sur Integrated Provincial Health Office on 27 February 2020 and 3 April 2020. The timely arrival of the vehicles is expected to strengthen the already weakened local health system to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

​Part of ADB’s “Emergency Assistance for Reconstruction and Recover of Marawi (EARRM)”, the initiative saw the ceremonial hand over of the vehicles’ keys at the Center for Health Development Northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro City. According to Undersecretary Abdullah B. Dumama Jr., the vehicles will be used to create a more efficient community health service in the province. He added that the Department of Health (DOH) is also due to provide ambulances and mobile health clinics to improve patient access to health care, and strengthen disaster preparedness and response capacity.

​The Center for Health Development Northern Mindanao, along with the DOH Project Management Team, is committed to regularly monitoring the usage of these vehicles, making sure they are fulfilling the need that they have been provided for.

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The delivery of the medical vehicles – From left to right: Dir. Mar Wynn Bello, Dir. Leonita Gorgolon, Undesecretary Abdullah Dumama Jr., Dr. Ali Dalidig, Dr. Alinader Minalang, Dir. Adriano Suba-an, Dir. David Mendoza

The EARRM Project will also fund the construction of two local health units, with essential medical equipment and supplies, ensuring access to essential health services for the community. “The DOH have been with us since the start of the Marawi Siege,” said Dr. Alinader Minalang, IPHO Lanao del Sur Provincial Health Officer. He added: “They have been providing support to our health care operations, including through managing the fund assistance available from various development partners such as the Asian Development Bank”.


This article was originally posted on ADB’s Livable Cities Blog.
Cover photo of Marawi City from Wikimedia Commons.
GEF supports new initiative to boost investment in nature-based infrastructure for climate adaptation

GEF supports new initiative to boost investment in nature-based infrastructure for climate adaptation

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has approved a $2 million grant for a new venture in partnership with the MAVA Foundation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which aims to increase investment in nature-based infrastructure that can help cities and countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The new global initiative, supported by the GEF-managed Special Climate Change Fund, will use financial modelling and climate change projections to establish the business case for investing in nature and make it easier for investors and government officials to assign a value to and consider nature-based solutions when making infrastructure spending decisions.

The project will equip decision-makers with comprehensive, system-wide valuations of natural assets, reflecting capital and operating costs as well as co-benefits from carbon sequestration, air purification, protection against water scarcity, and climate change adaptation, plus cost comparisons with grey infrastructure alternatives.

This is important as many decision-makers currently lack the tools to directly compare green or hybrid infrastructure solutions with alternatives, for instance when making decisions about flood control, food security, coastal protection, water conservation and wastewater treatment. Such infrastructure planning and spending decisions will be critically important in the coming years as countries plan their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward more ambitious climate change, biodiversity, and other goals and frameworks.

“We are proud to support this venture, which will address the critical evidence gap that investors and project developers currently face as they evaluate whether to invest in nature and nature-based infrastructure,” said GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. “Making this information more readily available will be a game changer for those making long-term decisions about infrastructure investments for economic recovery and development.”

The MAVA Foundation, a philanthropic organization working to conserve biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature, is partnering with the GEF and has pledged to provide $2 million in co-financing to scale up the impact of the project, which will be implemented by UNIDO and executed by IISD. The project, which will use data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, will also include a public online database making information on the valuation and performance of nature-based infrastructure available to a wide variety of project partners and stakeholders.

“Nature is part of the fundamental infrastructure on which thriving societies and economies depend. Despite its regenerative capacity, natural infrastructure – like built infrastructure – needs maintenance and therefore investment. This project will demonstrate that investing in maintaining and restoring our natural capital provides solutions to societal problems – above all to the adaptation to climate change. Most importantly, the training and capacity development offered will scale the project impact far beyond the concrete case examples,” said MAVA Foundation Director General Lynda Mansson.

“Our aim for this project is to consider social, economic, and environmental factors to demonstrate the system-wide case for investing in large-scale nature-based solutions,” said IISD President and CEO Richard Florizone. “Natural ecosystems like forests, mangroves, wetlands, and grasslands provide a range of ‘services’ that can complement and even substitute for built infrastructure. The strong evidence base we build through this unique partnership will help all market participants confidently invest in nature.”

“In line with UNIDO’s mandate to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development, we actively cooperate with private sector entities to further environmental stewardship approaches. This project will allow us to quantify the positive impact of stewardship activities on ecosystems as well as to demonstrate the cost efficiency of nature-based infrastructure. It will also allow us to highlight the economic value of the positive externalities provided by nature-based infrastructure to our partners in governments and international finance institutions. Thus, the project will have a catalytic impact on UNIDO’s efforts to up-scale public-private partnerships on environmental stewardship as required for a transformational change in climate change adaptation,” said UNIDO Managing Director Stephan Sicars.

The new project is an example of the GEF’s ongoing commitment to help countries and partners make wise investment decisions related to nature-based solutions and climate resilience, and reflects the Special Climate Change Fund’s focus on supporting innovative and impactful adaptation solutions. It will also support the Global Commission on Adaptation’s call to scale up action on nature-based solutions for adaptation.

For more information, please contact:

  • Laura MacInnis, GEF Senior Communications Officer, lmacinnis@thegef.org
  • Zahra Sethna, IISD Director of Communications, media@iisd.org
  • Holger Schmid, MAVA Foundation Program Director, holger.schmid@fondationmava.org
  • Charles Arthur, UNIDO Communications Officer, C.ARTHUR@unido.org

This article was posted on ReliefWeb.
UCCRTF supports a water resources study for New Clark City

UCCRTF supports a water resources study for New Clark City

New Clark City (NCC), an upcoming mixed-use township managed by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), is being developed with the vision of becoming a leading example of an environmentally sustainable, smart, and disaster-resilient city.

To realize this ambition, efficient and sustainable use of water resources is key. To this end, a Water Resources Study was prepared with the main objective of assessing groundwater and surface water availability within and near NCC.

The study, conducted by the Geoscience Foundation Inc. for BCDA, will feed into resource planning that will ensure there is sufficient water to serve NCC, which has an area of approximately 9,450 hectares and is located about 120 kilometers (km) north of Manila.

Sustainability is at the heart of the study. It proposes that NCC makes use of groundwater, surface water, and other water sources like reservoirs, wastewater recycling, and rainwater harvesting, to avoid resource depletion. The use of surface water, in particular, will ensure that deep aquifers are not exhausted, and resources can be sustainably maintained.

The study, supported by the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF), is linked to the ADB Transaction Advisory Services of the Office of Public-Private Partnership for NCC, which looks at the structuring and tendering of infrastructure packages. In 2017 to 2018, UCCRTF financed – through the request of BCDA – the review of the NCC master plan, conduct of the River Study and recommendations, and the development of the Resilience Framework.

Climate change is also a major consideration in the study, as climate projections indicate a 10% increase in precipitation levels during rainy season and a 10% decrease during the dry season by 2036. Enough water should be stored in water tanks and reservoirs during the rainy season so that this can be used in the summer or dry season.

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Image: Well drilling near NNC.
Credit: Marie Grace Patadlas, ADB Consultant

The two major rivers of NCC

The two major rivers in the NCC are the Cutcut and Bangot Rivers. The Bangot River is situated at the northern edge of NCC and is a tributary of the O’Donnell River. The confluence with the O’Donnell River is located about 1 km north from the Philippine Army Camp. To ensure the sustainable use of the Bangot and Cutcut Rivers, a water resources monitoring program will be established through the installation of depth gauge meters that will track changes in the river flows.

Based on the study, the water quality for the two rivers were found to be satisfactory and well within the prescribed limits even for Class AA water quality guidelines for drinking water supply. However, primary treatment, including disinfection, is required for the water to be distributed for drinking. Once this is developed, these rivers can produce about 32 million liters per day, which is sufficient for a medium-sized city.

Water rights for the two rivers were also applied with the National Water Resources Board on behalf of BCDA and are awaiting deliberations. The results of the study were incorporated into the “NCC 50-year Water Resources Masterplan”, the roadmap for NCC’s resilient water supply system. The plan is seen to be financially viable and is expected to yield economic benefits through increased water usage efficiency and greater equity in access to water, without comprising environmental sustainability and ensuring water availability for future usage.

Presenting the study to stakeholders

​On water reuse, the study indicated that this will only be suitable for non-potable uses such as for agriculture, aquifer recharge, aquaculture, firefighting, flushing of toilets, industrial cooling, parks and golf course watering, formation of wetlands for wildlife habitats, and recreational impoundments. As an alternative water source, the O’Donnell River is also being considered in case the use of Bangot River is not feasible. This will form part of the water development plan for NCC’s main water source in future phases.

As for wastewater management, the study recognizes that constructed wetlands and ponds through a series of bio-retention and bio-remediation systems will help reduce and control the amount of pollutants – such as fertilizers, pesticides, and sediment – that enter the waterways from open space run-off. A centralized sewerage treatment plant is being planned for NCC, and it will service the main development areas covering the National Government Administrative Center and the area handled by real estate firm Filinvest Land. However, given that the construction of the plant may take up to three years, the use of modular treatment plants, which can be immediately installed and can easily be expanded, will be considered as an interim solution.

​Further review, vetting, and discussions with BCDA need to be made to align the recommendations with the NCC master plan given that there are ongoing developments in the area. Specifically, BCDA, locators, and water concessionaire need to discuss and establish projections that will shape the longer-term water policies and water infrastructure projects in the NCC.


This article was originally posted on the ADB’s Livable Cities blog site.
Cover photo by patrickroque01 / WikimediaCommons / CC by 4.0
The state of UCCRTF-supported cities during the pandemic

The state of UCCRTF-supported cities during the pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically changed the shape of daily life in cities around the world. The cities in which the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) operates are no exception.

​Economic activity has slowed considerably during lockdown and the planning and construction of infrastructure projects face delays as municipal governments tackle the immediate health crisis. So, what has life been like inside cities supported by UCCRTF? What lessons might the response to the COVID-19 crisis hold for building resilience to other shocks and stresses such as climate change?

​The city resilience officers of UCCRTF, who have been working on climate change resilience projects in many secondary cities across South and Southeast Asia, share how the pandemic has impacted their cities

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Image: Thanh Van, UCCRTF CRO in Vietnam

Summer season has arrived in Viet Nam and temperatures are rising. Reflecting on recent months, Hanoi citizens are very proud of what has been done to combat COVID-19. By the end of April, the Vietnamese Government recorded only 270 confirmed cases, of which 223 have recovered and returned home. Since that time there have been no further deaths, as of June 17th 2020.

The relatively low number compared to neighboring countries is largely due to the swift and effective prevention and control measures that the government put in place since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in January and cases in Hanoi in early March.

Viet Nam suspended entry of all foreigners from 22 March and mandatory health declarations became required at all international borders for Vietnamese nationals arriving from abroad. Authorities also suspended schools and canceled festivals nationwide. The most challenging time for many was the 22 days of lockdown from April 1 to 22. Everyone was asked to stay at home and stop all unessential activities.

People remain worried about the possibility of the virus spreading through the poorer areas of the cities, where living conditions are crowded. In Hue and Hoi An City, most people rely on tourism and other related business activities. They work in restaurants, hotels, tourism services, or small businesses such as street vendors or lottery ticket sellers. During the lockdown, the ban on gatherings meant many businesses had to close, many people lost their income and jobs.

To support these vulnerable groups, the government provided a support package of about VND 62 trillion ($2.7 billion) for around 20 million severely affected people for three months between April and June. In addition, free rice distribution centers were set up in Hanoi, HCMC, Danang, Hue, and other provinces to help poor people and those affected by the coronavirus.

While the country works toward a socioeconomic recovery, the immediate response to the crisis will focus on food production and manufacturing to support labor markets. As early as 4 May, tens of millions of students from preschool to high school in 63 provinces and cities returned to school, taking another step towards returning to some semblance of normal life.

Free Rice ATM in Hanoi for Poor effected
In Hanoi, rice is distributed for free to help with the daily needs of low-income groups (photo by Thanh Van)

The whole country has been declared as an ‘Infection Risk Area’ under Section 11 of the Bangladesh Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018. As of 17th June, 98,489 cases of COVID-19 have been identified and the number of deaths has risen to 1,305.   The highest number of COVID-19 cases is recorded in the older parts of Dhaka City.

All offices remain closed to prevent the spread of the disease. The army is currently carrying out street campaigns to enforce social distancing. People in infected areas must stay at home unless absolutely necessary. A daily curfew is enforced from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

The office of the Prime Minister issued an order assigning officials to each of the 64 districts in the country to supervise and coordinate a large-scale relief distribution program for vulnerable citizens.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved an emergency grant of $300,000 to the Bangladesh Government to help respond to the crisis. In collaboration with Directorate General of Health Services, this grant will be used to procure personal protective equipment such as face masks, safety googles, aprons, thermometers, and biohazard bags.

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Passengers wearing protective masks try to board on a launch at the Sadarghat terminal in Dhaka, Bangladesh (photo by ADB).

All the UCCRTF-funded cities remain under partial or complete lockdown, which is delaying progress on urban development, planning, and infrastructure programs. More importantly, cities are facing an additional challenge as the country approaches cyclone season. The combined COVID-19 and large-scale climate impacts will be difficult to manage as the responses to COVID (such as to stay inside and to maintain social distancing) are in contrast to the recommended response to cyclones, which may require people to leave their homes or congregate together in protective shelters.

​Recently, on 20 May, Bangladesh faced Super Cyclone Amphan, which made landfall in the southwestern part of the country causing serious damage to property. The UCCRTF-supported city of Patuakhali was badly affected. The government evacuated an estimated 2.4 million people from coastal districts, although observing social distancing was challenging. As an immediate measure, schools were used for more space in addition to regular cyclone shelters.

​A 3- to 4-meter tidal surge that accompanied the cyclone, however, destroyed crops and sources of drinking water.

​Relief efforts are currently underway in coordination with local administrations. According to the Bagerhat district administration, Amphan caused $50 million in direct damages with around 349 houses partially damaged and 374 houses completely destroyed. The total number of people affected by the cyclone in Bangladesh is estimated at 5,331.

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A health center near Peshawar is open round-the-clock and offers assistance to mothers and their children, in additional to general consultations (photo by Mallika Panorat, European Union).

​At present, only emergency services are available in all public and private hospitals, which have recently re-opened after being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools are still closed and only some offer classes online. There are also severe travel restrictions. The lockdown has affected every part of life in Pakistan’s cities.

The huge reduction in traffic has led to big improvements in air quality in major cities. While there is no data covering small cities backed by UCCRTF, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency has reported that the air quality index in Lahore has fallen from 496 parts per million (ppm) in January to 37 ppm in April. Similarly, for Islamabad, average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards, and concentrations of fine particulates (PM2.5) are also within permissible limits.

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Image: Tassadaq Shah UCCRTF CRO in Pakistan.

Currently, the UCCTRF-supported cities in Pakistan are not coping with other shocks and stresses from natural or human-induced hazards. However, since the cities are vulnerable to urban flooding and earthquakes, they are still at risk. The monsoon season is also drawing near (expected to start in July), which could compound the challenges faced by the cities. They will have to cope with flood management alongside COVID-19. While government officials, including national, provincial, and district disaster management authorities, are focused on COVID-19 response, this may well mean that there is less capacity to prepare for the upcoming flooding season. 


This article was originally posted on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities blog.
Cover photo by Thijs Degenkamp on Unsplash.
Financing increased for early warning systems in Small Island Developing States

Financing increased for early warning systems in Small Island Developing States

Key nations have announced US$ 4.8 million in funding for the delivery of early warning systems and services to reduce loss of life from severe weather events in the Pacific region. The announcement was made 10 June 2020 during the 11th Steering Committee Meeting of the Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative by its Member States, the governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The CREWS initiative was established in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) as a financial mechanism to save lives and livelihoods through the expansion of early warning systems and services in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. Its three Implementing Partners are the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank Group / Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Filipe Lucio of WMO indicated at the meeting that the funds would allow the island countries in the region to detect, monitor and forecast severe high-impact weather events. Additional services to be developed include access to longer-term seasonal predictions and operational early warning and response plans that ensure the most vulnerable people in the communities receive warnings.

CREWS Member States also approved the allocation of funds to support countries to monitor the effectiveness of their national early warning systems. Additionally, the preparations of another US$ 4 million project, covering the South West Indian Ocean that includes the countries of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles was initiated for funding in the near future.

To date, the CREWS Trust Fund has delivered over US$ 43 million in project funding and mobilized an additional US$ 270 million from public funds of other development partners – realizing accelerated life-saving action and maximized finance effectiveness.

In 2019, CREWS support was scaled up to 44 least developed countries and small island developing states. Through this work, more than 10 million people in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities now have access to better early warning services.

  • In Afghanistan, 3D printers are being used to build automatic weather stations, bringing early warning services to rural communities.
  • In Burkina Faso, more than 1,100 rural farmers received 130 weather forecasts in 2019, broadcast via local radio stations.
  • In Fiji, nearly one million people now have advance flash flood warnings, creating increased security and saving lives.
  • In Niger, more than 600 women were trained in early warning services and have now created women-led WhatsApp groups to amplify advance warnings throughout their communities.
  • Across the Caribbean, national emergency management offices, national hydromet offices, national gender bureaux, sectorial ministries, and non-governmental groups including women organizations are now working together to bridge the gender divide in access to early warning systems.

This article was accessed via PreventionWeb. Read the original article here.
Cover photo of Fiji highway from Pexels.
Bangladesh has saved thousands of lives from a devastating cyclone – here’s how

Bangladesh has saved thousands of lives from a devastating cyclone – here’s how

By Ilan Kelman and Bayes Ahmed

The Atlantic and Caribbean hurricane season has just begun, with the world worried about the prospect of providing humanitarian relief in the context of a pandemic and lockdowns. But Bangladesh recently experienced one of the most powerful Bay of Bengal cyclones on record and saved thousands of lives through forecasting, warning, and evacuation.

This is in stark contrast to the November 1970 cyclone, which killed around 500,000 people in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), making it one of the deadliest known storms in human history. Around 11,000 died in a 1985 cyclone, and one in 1991 killed 140,000. More recent strikes, such as Cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Cyclone Alia in 2009, had over 3,400 deaths and about 190 deaths respectively.

All these far exceeded the recent Cyclone Amphan’s total of 26 deaths so far. Understanding the generally declining death toll offers lessons on how the rest of the world could prepare better for such events. Part of it is forecasting, warning, and evacuation.

But another part is local action, which we research. Much of this science is participatory, directed by the people who are vulnerable in order to balance and meld local and external ideas and approaches.

From vulnerability to resilience

Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh on May 20 2020. It inundated over 4,000 sq km of land and destroyed homes, polders (low-lying areas of land surrounded by dikes or levees), embankments, roads, electricity poles, mobile phone towers, bridges and culverts, with the exact costs still being tallied. Many agricultural fields and fish farms were overwhelmed by the saltwater storm surge.

The low death toll can be largely attributed to Bangladesh’s long-term efforts to reduce vulnerabilities, including at the local level, which is always the key in preventing disasters. In 1970, the country had only 42 cyclone shelters, whereas now over 12,000 functionally active cyclone shelters dot the coastline, serving nearly 5 million people.

A diverse system of warning messages tailored to local needs keeps people informed about evacuation, ranging from social media to people on bicycles with megaphones. Training in school means that the announcements are trusted and the population knows how to react and why.

Bangladesh has invested in constructing numerous polders to reduce the force of storm surges, although water retention has sometimes damaged agriculture and infrastructure. Local leaders, organisations, and authorities collaborate to implement tidal river management and nature-based approaches such as mangroves. This helps to deal with storm surge and rainfall, as well as reduced freshwater due to India’s Farakka Barrage, built across the Ganges River to keep the water in India since the 1970s.

We assessed one local programme funded and supported by the British and Swedish Red Cross for implementation by the Bangladesh Red Crescent. This “Vulnerability to Resilience” programme ran between 2013 and 2016 in the coastal villages of Pashurbunia and Nowapara in Kalapara Upazila in Patuakhali district.

This was the first time that people there had been involved in such resilience-building work. They installed flood-resistant tubewells, raised latrines above expected flood levels, trained for improved hygiene and first aid, distributed safety equipment, improved local early warning and evacuation systems, and were trained as local volunteers to continue these activities.

Cyclone Amphan affected areas in Shyamnagar Upazila, Satkhira District, Bangladesh. © Taifur Rahman, HMBD Foundation, Bangladesh, Author provided

Diverse and alternative livelihood opportunities were also promoted. Household-level businesses and shops were encouraged, alongside local markets for the products.

This included people growing and selling garden vegetables and rice, producing crafts through quilting and sewing, rearing cattle for milk and beef, and investing in ducks, chickens, and aquaculture for fish. If any one of these livelihoods is interrupted or ruined, then people would still have options for earning income.

These initiatives are clearly not about cyclones only and move far beyond forecasting, warning, and evacuation. They improve livelihoods, living conditions, community interaction, health, and safety irrespective of a storm. Our calculations immediately after the programme demonstrated that every dollar invested in the programme produced a quick payback of almost five times that amount through enhanced income and local activities.

Local success

The real test, though, remains what happens during a hazard. Three weeks after the programme ended, Cyclone Roanu ripped through the south coast of Bangladesh on May 21, 2016. Pashurbunia and Nowapara reported successful warning and evacuation, no casualties, livelihoods with limited interruption, and a water supply and latrines that functioned afterwards.

Similar success is now repeated with Amphan. Despite the cyclone’s devastation, the people are alive and are returning home to rebuild. In Pashurbunia and Nowapara, seven kilometres of polder length were destroyed while the villages and agricultural lands were inundated.

The local population is repairing the damaged polders, houses, and latrines while restoring the drinking water supply and resuming their livelihoods. This is mainly through self-help, without much external assistance so far. It is not easy, but much better than before.

It required nearly 50 years from the 1970 calamity to achieve this state of disaster risk reduction and readiness. Plenty of work remains since Bangladesh faces many other hazards, including human-caused climate change, sea-level rise, earthquakes, and landslides. The country is also coping with one of the largest current refugee crises following genocide against the Rohingya.

Any cyclone could change the fatality trend. But Bangladesh’s efforts to date, from the national to the local level, show what any location experiencing tropical cyclones could and should do.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Cpl. Peter Miller from Wikimedia Commons.
Letting rivers run wild could reduce UK flooding – new research

Letting rivers run wild could reduce UK flooding – new research

By Neil Entwistle and George Heritage

The UK government currently spends £2.6 billion on flood defences in England, and that amount is set to double by 2026. Flooding in February 2020 showed how that’s likely to be a good investment, as climate change drives warmer and wetter weather each winter. But when it comes to managing rivers to prevent flooding in towns and cities downstream, we’re often our own worst enemy.

After the second world war, Britain embarked on a mission to reconstruct its rivers. Workers cut ditches to drain moorland, making it suitable for livestock farming. Looping rivers which once wound lazily through floodplains – flooding these areas once every two years or so – were straightened into rigid channels. River beds were dredged to deepen them and banks excavated to make them steeper, an unnatural situation that takes routine management to maintain.

The idea behind all of this was to reduce flooding by increasing the speed at which water moves downstream. But this also increased the power of rivers to move sediment. Gravels and cobbles dash along these modified and heavily managed rivers, accumulating where the water slows down, as it moves through towns and cities. Here, the river bed swells as sediment piles up, increasing local flood risk.

Flooding in Carlisle, December 2015. Environment Agency geomatics group, Author provided

Over 60% of the UK’s watercourses have been transformed in this way, changing the fundamental character of many British rivers – and the natural processes that would usually govern them – over just a few generations. In a new study, we found that doing nothing is often a better course of action for reducing flooding than these heavy handed attempts to mechanically alter rivers.

Going with the flow

We studied the River Caldew in Cumbria, which has caused three major floods in nearby Carlisle since 2010. Satellite data showed that straightening, deepening and embanking was common along the river between 2005 and 2016. Very little sediment was spotted in the river and across the floodplain, suggesting that almost all of it was being funnelled downstream towards Carlisle.

During this time, the channel through the city was widened in the hope that this would cause flood water to spread out and lose energy. But this only increased the problem of sediment building up within the river, creating a shallower channel through Carlisle that’s prone to overflowing.

A stretch of the Caldew near Mosedale in 2003. The channel is fairly rigid and surrounded by managed grassland. Google Earth, Author provided

Outside of the city, in parts where maintenance has been relaxed, the river has begun to return to a more natural state. Multiple “wandering” channels can now be seen alongside wide areas of deposited gravel. This is encouraging, as it suggests that the main river and its floodplain are reconnecting, allowing the sediment it transports to fall out of the channel and collect upstream.

We found that rivers which are allowed to behave more naturally are better at locking up sediment upstream, rather than letting it accumulate in unnaturally high quantities in flood-prone towns and cities. If more rivers are allowed to behave naturally and develop this way, it could help reduce future flooding.

The Caldew at Cummersdale in 2018. Note the variety of vegetation and increased gravel. Google Earth, Author provided

This hands-off approach to managing rivers is also much cheaper than hard engineering and brings a wealth of environmental benefits with it. The wandering channel system that’s evolving on the River Caldew has the greatest variety of features and habitats across the entire watercourse.

There are gravel bars, deep pools, floodplain wetlands, ponds and river cliffs. This diversity provides greater spawning habitat for fish, and cooler refuges for their fry. The open water habitats benefit amphibians, the trees and shrubs help kingfisher hunt and sand martins can nest in the river cliffs. Beetles and spiders scurry in the shingle, earning this wilder stretch of the Caldew a designation as a site of special scientific interest.

The last 75 years have seen many UK rivers change beyond recognition. The way we manage them in future must look very different. Relaxing our iron grip and allowing natural processes to flourish on rivers once more could be our best hope for reducing flooding, while reviving lost ecosystems rich in native wildlife.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.

Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons.