Decisive action on climate change must be at the heart of any resilient recovery from COVID-19, according to the Government of Bangladesh. In comments made in its capacity as the new chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group of Ministers of Finance, Bangladesh called on leaders to ensure that recovery spending targeted at the pandemic also builds resilience to wider systemic shocks created by climate change.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had broken through the thin veneer of our security to the type of global risks we all faced today,” said H.E. Dr. A K Abdul Momen, MP, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. “It has revealed just how vulnerable society had become and climate change has an even greater potential for disruption, especially for those of us on the frontline”.
Under Bangladesh’s leadership, the CVF indicated it would continue to call for delivery of strengthened contributions to the Paris Agreement. To reinforce this commitment, it confirmed that the country’s Prime Minister, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, will serve as Chair of the CVF.
Bangladesh indicated that its work within the V20 would continue to mobilize the economy and financial resources to fight climate change and ensure international financial institutions are better positioned to respond to climate threats and provide the right support to the most vulnerable. Several innovative financing initiatives under development by the V20 were also highlighted, including the “Accelerated Financing Mechanism”, which aims to address higher capital costs that hold back climate investments in the V20, and the “Sustainable Insurance Facility”, which aims to expand financial protection against climate risks.
“Already reeling from the economic shock of the COVID pandemic our economy was struck by a second tragic event with Cyclone Amphan. This situation of extreme vulnerability is dangerous and unsustainable,” said Ms Fatima Yasmin, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division. “In leading forward the V20, Bangladesh, therefore, aims to work tirelessly, at home and with all our partner countries and institutions, to ensure today’s economic systems adjust to the realities we face. We will promote all efforts towards urgently reinforcing climate and economic resilience.”
By PhyoPhyo Wai, APDC, Jose Arianne Gonzales, Oxfam and Marino Deocariza, Oxfam
Building community resilience to the impacts of climate change is essential in ensuring that vulnerable cities can thrive and survive but involving the community in the process is equally critical.
Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, is vulnerable to several types of disasters, including cyclones, floods, drought, and heatwaves. These events are likely to get worse with climate change as Yangon will also experience increased temperature, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise resulting in saltwater intrusion on coastal areas. The impact of these hazards, shocks, and stresses is exacerbated by unregulated urban development and the loss of green spaces and vegetation cover in the city. In addition, poorly maintained urban infrastructure and inadequate urban service provisions (such as water supply, solid waste management, drainage, and sanitation) increase risk exposure to the residents of the city, limiting their ability to be resilient to impacts and lowering their quality of life.
In July 2020, the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) and Oxfam Great Britain, along with local partner Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), launched the ADB-RETA 9329: Promoting Urban Resilience in Selected Asian Cities–Developing of Pilot Activities and Project Development Support (Subproject 3) or the Community-Led Project (CLP) – in Yangon, Myanmar. This project aims to support poor urban communities through an inclusive resilience planning process – especially women, youth and vulnerable groups – to enhance their well-being even in the face of the impacts caused by disasters and climate change shocks and stressors.
Inclusive and participatory planning
The UCCRTF project is piloting approaches to integrate community-led projects into ongoing or planned ADB projects. The inclusive and participatory workshop brought together city stakeholders to select a climate-vulnerable community in which to pilot the project implementation. Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) plays a significant role in building climate-resilient and sustainable urban systems in Yangon with support from the regional and national government. Thirty-one city stakeholders from the YCDC attended, as well as other Yangon Regional Departments and development partners, and 21 online participants from ADB, UCCRTF, Oxfam GB, and ADPC.
Through the consultation process, stakeholders were able to share their experience and expertise, which guided project design and pilot community selection. City stakeholders and government representatives expressed a strong commitment to the project after the workshop.
“Normally we, as government personnel, are only approached after organizations have already decided upon the project areas themselves – without hearing local voices and without getting any ideas from us. This is my very first experience participating in this kind of inclusive and transparent workshop, and having a chance to select the project’s areas with having our ideas,” said Daw Saw Sandar Oo Deputy Director, YCDC Urban Planning Authoritym.
The workshop also enabled city stakeholders to identify people to sit on the Community Stakeholders’ Group (CSG). The CSG will lead the implementation of the project in the pilot community, as well as establish agreed criteria for selecting the implementation actions for a community-led project that will be delivered as part of the project.
Zaw Win Aung Assistant Director, YCDC Water Resources and Water Supply Authority, who was one of the participants, stressed the importance of community-led initiatives for developing capacity and ownership of urban development processes. “Community-led projects have the potential of bringing knowledge and skills to the community,” he said. “This can enable them to become accountable leaders and result in innovative ideas that build the capacities of community stakeholder groups”.
Bringing hope to Dala Township
Dala Township has been selected by city stakeholders for the pilot project after being voted as the most vulnerable township in Yangon. Dala has also been considered the most suitable project site by scoring highest in five of the six selection indicators.
Dala Township is located on the southern bank of Yangon River and is prone to regular flooding and riverbank erosion. In 2008, 83 percent of Dala was inundated by Cyclone Nargis. The community also regularly suffers from water scarcity, lacking in a reliable source of potable and domestic water. The township is also known to have high poverty rate and has several informal settlements.
The people of Dala have been experiencing the impacts of climate change. But these hardships will soon be turned into opportunities after being identified by the government and YDCD as an area for future development. Dala Township is expected to experience positive changes in the coming years as the community, assisted by UCCTRF, will work to build climate resilience and improve the lives of its people.
By Khual Tawna, UCCRTF Country Resilience Officer for Myanmar
More than 4,000 households and about 20,000 residents in Mandalay’s Amarapura township have been hit by flashfloods caused by a river embankment that collapsed on 19 July 2020. Through a coordinated response, the city government and local communities worked together to repair the damage and prevent further flooding of surrounding communities.
Following heavy monsoon rainfall, water from the swelling Ayeyawaddy river created a large sinkhole in its embankment which caused it to fail. The embankment collapse occurred just 15 meters from the Shwe Ge flood gate and sewage pumping station in Mandalay’s Amarapura township. The collapse resulted in a flood that destroyed the roads near the embankment and affected the lowland areas and flooded surrounding villages. About 200 households in the area had to be evacuated.
The Mandalay Regional Government and City Development Committee coordinated the response, which included substantial volunteer support from local communities. Their efforts helped to stem the water flow through the embankment within 24 hours. However, the authorities estimate it would take another month before affected communities can return to their homes. In the meantime, thousands of people have been forced to stay in temporary shelters along the Sagiang-Mandalay and Kan Pat roads.
While the disaster response was swift, the incident highlights the need to integrate climate change considerations into infrastructure planning and design in order to build resilience to extreme weather events. It also shows that public awareness of flood risk during monsoon season is essential for flood risk preparedness at household level.
UCCRTF is supporting Mandalay to build resilience under Grant 0455-MYA: Mandalay Urban Services Improvement Project.
COVID-19 cases have been rapidly increasing in Pakistani cities in recent weeks. The rate of infection became so high that, on June 13th, Prime Minister, Imran Khan, announced that a “smart lockdown” strategy would be imposed on certain hot spots across the country.
Khan emphasized that the country’s precarious economic situation, meant that a nationwide lockdown was impossible. The smart lockdown strategy aims to curb the spread of the coronavirus and helps to balance the lives of citizens with their livelihoods. The strategy is designed to contain the disease in high risk areas which are reporting large numbers of coronavirus cases negating the need for countrywide restrictions.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) undertook a comprehensive review of potential COVID-19 clusters and, on June 15, identified 20 cities in the country that were “high risk areas”, which are reporting large numbers of COVID-19 cases. These areas were then targeted for limited locality-based. The cities that were identified as having a “likely increase in speed of infection” required restrictive measures for containment of COVID-19. A testing, tracing and quarantining (TTQ) strategy is also being employed as part of the containment strategy.
Starting from June 16, smart lockdowns were implemented through provincially issued orders and regulations. The province of Punjab has announced that it has decided to impose a lockdown in areas with potential COVID-19 hotspots in seven cities of the province namely, the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, the UCCRTF city of Sialkot.
The following day, 904 further lockdowns were imposed in Punjab; 26 in Sindh; 572 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; 29 in Azad Kashmir; 10 in Islamabad; and 5 in Gilgit-Baltistan. Around the country, authorities are attempting to ensure compliance with health guidelines, particularly in workplaces and in industrial sector and transport markets and shops.
Although the absolute impact of the improved strategy is not known, there are early signs of improvement in some parts of the country. For instance, in Islamabad 771 cases of coronavirus were reported on June 1st, a number that has since fallen to 25 cases as of the 5th of September 2020. After reporting its first cases on February 26, Pakistan has so far officially registered nearly 213,470 confirmed cases and 4,395 deaths. Of those infected, more than 100,802 have recovered.
Viet Nam’s marine resources deliver huge benefits to the country’s economy, as well as providing countless ecosystem services to its large coastal zone. However, coastal zone management is becoming increasingly difficult, as a result of impacts related to climate change such as sea level rise, coastal erosion, and sand dune degradation.
The situation is especially pronounced in coastal cities such as Dong Hoi, which is gaining popularity as a tourism destination. Located in Quang Binh province in the central part of the country, the Dong Hoi’s coastline is changing rapidly, posing a threat to resident’s livelihoods and local economy. Despite the importance of Dong Hoi’s coastal zone for tourism development, the causes and long-term impacts of the region’s coastal degradation are poorly understood by local stakeholders.
With assistance from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF), administered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the local government is piloting the Dong Hoi Integrated Coastal Management Project. The project, a component of ADB and Viet Nam’s Urban Environment and Climate Change Adaptation Project, is restoring sand dunes based on evidence generated from scientific surveys and stakeholder consultations.
The pilot is being delivered by an expert consortium of international and national specialists led by Dutch consulting engineers Witteveen+Bos, Hanoi University’s Center for Environmental Fluid Dynamics (Hanoi University), and Van Phu JSC. Since 2018, they have been conducting studies, capacity building activities, and raising public awareness on coastal zone management.
Technical information and community integration
Exploratory studies that seek to determine the way that the Kien Giang river behaves and moves sediment, and the development and migration of the dune system in Nhat Le estuary are crucial to the design of sand dune restoration. These studies in hydrodynamics, bathymetry and other morphological assessments, provide a detailed picture of how the process of sedimentation in the river mouth contribute to severe flooding upstream, and cause problems for river and marine transport navigation. They also show the impact of annual dredging, which negatively affects the condition of the beach.
The results of these studies and ongoing monitoring and observations have helped to identify actions that can help to sustainably adapt and maintain the river mouth and the coastline. The site for the pilot was chosen in May 2020 with the agreement of Quang Binh Provincial Government. To ensure the project’s success, the initiative has been designed to involve a wide range of stakeholders, including government agencies, local fisherman, and women and children’s groups. Each have been consulted and received customized training courses about sustainable nature conservation.
It is hoped that that by 2021, the flagship project will be well underway and serve as a model of best practice to other coastal towns in Viet Nam and beyond.
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.
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”.
ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) has begun working on a number of case studies looking at the economic benefits of investment in urban resilience. These studies examine the historical socio-economic vulnerability and exposure of selected cities to a range of climate impacts and stresses such as flooding and cyclone damage. The purpose of the studies is to assess the potential economic benefits of investing in resilient infrastructure and better city-level planning and capacity. It is hoped that a more comprehensive appreciation of the economic value of avoided damages will bolster the case for climate-resilient investment.
The first case study examines the secondary cities of Bagerhat and Patuakhali in Bangladesh, both of which are located in the low-lying coastal flood plain. These cities have been regularly impacted by large-scale cyclone events, such as Cyclone Sidr in 2007, which affected more than 200,000 people within the city boundaries. The cyclone destroyed roads, buildings, schools, colleges and other infrastructure, and killed more than 4,000 people across the coastal region. 
In support of the project preparation work for ADB investments in Bangladesh, UCCRTF financed the formulation of climate resilient integrated urban plans for seven towns, including Bagerhat and Patuakhali. Among the coastal towns, the two were determined to be the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change so the trust fund allocated an additional $6 million to the ADB Coastal Towns Environmental Infrastructure Project (CTEIP) (44212-013) to finance the construction of cyclone shelters, emergency access roads and drains, as well as the preparation of integrated drainage plans (IDP) and fecal sludge management (FSM) and solid waste management (SWM) plans in Bagerhat and Patuakhali.
In May 2020, these investments were put to the test when Cyclone Amphan, the most serious Category IV cyclone since Sidr, hit the Delta. In Bangladesh, the storm impacted more than 2.6 million people. More than 200,000 houses were fully or partially damaged, along with more than 44% of educational facilities. Bagerhat and Patuakhali were among the five worst impacted districts of Bangladesh. 
While full assessment work on damage and recovery costs is currently ongoing, what is becoming clear is that many of the most significant impacts of the cyclone in the two cities were able to be reduced, in part thanks to investments in resilient infrastructure and planning by ADB and UCCRTF.
Better early warning systems, comprehensive evacuation plans, and more robust cyclone shelters led to significantly lower levels of deaths and injury, with a total of 26 deaths across the whole of Bangladesh, of which only two were from Bagerhat and Patuakhali districts. This was of a magnitude lower than in previous similar scale events. 
Furthermore, an initial review indicates that UCCRTF infrastructure investments remained operational when the cyclone hit. More robust and resilient roads supported the movement of people across the municipal region as part of the evacuation. Investments in higher capacity drainage systems also helped the cities cope better with intense rainfall and coastal or river flooding.
The UCCRTF team is currently engaging with the local authorities in both cities to obtain more detailed insights into the damage incurred as well as the potential avoided damage costs resulting from recent investments in improved resilience. As a result of COVID-19, the economics team have been undertaking remote videoconferences with the mayors and senior engineers in the cities, supported by the project’s Country Resilience Officers on the ground.
The case study, due later this year, will provide more detailed evidence on the socio-economic benefits of investing in resilience in terms of avoided costs and other livelihood and productivity benefits. Wider assessments of the economics of resilience suggest that the benefits of such investments in vulnerable urban environments are at least double the cost, and that improvements in city-level planning and preparedness have the potential to drastically reduce the human cost of climate disasters.
This will be the first in a series of economics of resilience case studies, with others tentatively planned for Hue in Viet Nam and La Trinidad in the Philippines over the coming months.
In the 2019 Annual Report of the Urban Financing Partership Facility (UFPF), managed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), climate resilience has become more embedded in urban development investments.
The report showed that there was a total of $191.86 million in UFPF, with its largest share coming from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) at 78% of the total.
By the end of 2019, UFPF assistance has led to a total of 152 completed projects, comprised of investment grants, technical assistance, direct charge activities, and project preparation studies. The report details the performance of each trust fund: UCCRTF, the Urban Environmental Infrastructure Fund (UEIF), the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) Trust Fund, and the ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund (AASCTF).
According to the report, UCCRTF approved 12 projects amounting to $18.725 million, which brings the total portfolio to $118.502 million. Out of this, $58.4 million has been linked to $2.065 billion of approved investments, of which $358.3 million is from sources other than the ADB. This total downstream financing is expected to exceed $3 billion if all pending loans supported by UCCRTF activities are approved.
UCCRTF project case studies
The UFPF Annual Report included several impact stories from UCCRTF projects. These included the Spatial Data Analysis Explorer (SPADE) tool, an online repository of geospatial data for ADB projects. SPADE was developed through a collaboration between UCCRTF, ADB’s Urban Sector Group, and the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department (SDCC). It is designed to help project officers and consultants better visualize how various factors can affect a project. The web-based platform can create layers of information using socioeconomic data, population density, building footprints, and rainfall projections in 25–100 years scale over a city map. SPADE promotes a systemic approach that is needed to build climate change resilience into conception, design, and construction of infrastructure projects.
Another UCCRTF project featured in the report was the Revitalization of Informal Settlements and their Environments through a Water Sensitive Approach (RISE–Indonesia Pilot Component), in Makassar. UCCRTF support to this project included $196,000 in technical assistance and a $4.6 million investment grant to improve livability and accessibility of informal settlements and increase their resilience to climate-driven shocks such as flooding.
To date, UCCRTF has approved more than $118 million in funding for various projects in the priority countries. Of this, 61 projects (equivalent to $115 million) are ongoing. In its final two years, UCCRTF will focus its efforts on supporting project implementation and capturing results and impacts. UCCRTF is developing an application for Phase 2 of the trust fund. If approved by the UK Government, it will be available in 2021.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.