POST TIME: 19 October, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Haor disaster: Climate budget should be increased
Natural disasters can hit and be life-threatening at any time in the face of adverse effects of climate change
Shaheeduzzaman Sagor

Haor disaster: Climate budget should be increased

In April 2017, a major disaster occurred in Bangladesh. The only crop of the year of 142 Haor named ‘Boro rice’ was lost in the water. Fishes of Tk 410 million died due to loss of biodiversity balance at that time. The people of Haor said that such a catastrophe had not happened in the last 50-60 years. Experts said that the disaster was due to the adverse effects of climate change. Within a few days, the price of rice at that time rose Tk 15 to 20 per kg. The people of Haor were suffering from food shortages and people across the country faced high prices of daily foods due to lack of supervision and low budget of the concerned ministries, including the ministries of agriculture and disaster management and relief.

 Natural disasters can hit any country at any time. Environmental experts, however, believe that the tendency of natural disasters has increased many times due to climate change in the world. The tragedy of Haor in Bangladesh has become increasingly clear as to why it happened. Local elderly hawkers said they had not witnessed events such as the catastrophe of the Haor in 2017 in their life before. At the same time in the history of the country, there is no record of crops in 142 Haor being dumped in the water, which people of Netrokona, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj and Kishoreganj have seen before.

 The paddy plants were submerged by floodwater and they naturally started to decay after 8-12 days. It is because the process of oxidation started under the floodwater. Dissolved oxygen was needed in the water to complete that process. As a result, the amount of dissolved oxygen got reduced in floodwater. On the other hand, Methane gas was produced for the process of oxidation which was toxic to organisms living in floodwater.

This process had an adverse effect on biodiversity and the food chain was destroyed. The floodwaters had remained in the Haor regions for 19 days. According to data from the Department of Fisheries and Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, more than 410-million tons of fish died in the poisoning of floodwater in Haor regions. And 3244 ducks also perished.

 When the disaster occurred in Haor, rice prices began to rise steadily. Within two weeks, the price of rice increased from Tk 15 to 20 per kg. But due to the low budget for ministries of disaster management and relief and agriculture, the government was not in a position to tackle the situation. And because of the rise in prices of our main food rice, the people of the country were suffering acutely. From this experience, the government might have increased the climate budget at a significantly higher rate than the previous year in the two mentioned ministries.

After reviewing fiscal year (FY) 2018-19 report, the climate budget had risen from Tk 1011.3 billion to about 1900 billion than the previous year. This increase was expected but it was only 8.82 per cent of the total budget of 20 ministries. Considering the food and nutrition security and lifestyle of the people of Bangladesh, the budget was often lower than that. But hopefully, the government increased the budget of relevant five ministries in the next fiscal year after the Haor disaster.

A review of the climate budget for this year shows the government has set an allocation of Tk 2374.85 billion to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change in the proposed budget for FY 2019-20. The amount will be spent by 25 ministries and divisions in this regard.

A report from the ministry of finance said the cumulative budget allocation of these ministries and divisions amount to 58.11% of the total national budget, where 7.81% is related to climate. The government first allocated Tk 1216.33 billion for climate change vulnerabilities in FY 2015-16.

 Natural disasters can hit and be life-threatening at any time in the face of adverse effects of climate change. To cope with this disaster, the climate budget will have to be increased even more. Otherwise, the government will be held irresponsible in dealing with the situation as people will suffer from the food and nutrition crisis as well as the high cost of daily goods. That is why the government has to think more about increasing the climate budget.

The writer is a contributor and can be contacted at: sagorbau@gmail.com