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The Issues For Building Resilient Communities Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3407 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Hazards are found everywhere and so the onus is always upon the communities involved to find ways to deal with such hazards (Benini et al 2008), some of which may have serious consequences while others may be less serious. Harzards which are posed by disasters may however, have far reaching effects on the local communities and in most cases there may not be adequate ways of tackling these and the communities must learn to live with such hazards.

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This essay will make an attempt to evaluate the nature of harzards their effects that call upon certain measures of resilience to be affected to deal with the same. It is the view of this essay that in areas where disasters are prone, there may be more hazards and hence also, more resilience responses by the members of the communities than in areas where such disasters and hence harzards are less (Garg et al 2007). But this view is only limited to the extent where natural disasters are common and not necessarily in areas where other disasters might occur, because, while natural hazards may be common place in certain areas for instance flooding and cyclone in Bangladesh due to its geographical position, fire hazards may occur in any country irrespective of its geographical location and hence the scope of this discussion will be limited to the kind of hazard that will be used (Berkes, Colding, Folke 2003, Zhou H., et al 2008).

Disasters which often lead to hazards may be defined as those occurrences that are unplanned and are sudden or even anticipated and whose effects are often widespread (Benini et al 2008). Disasters have over the years struck different parts of the world and as much as they are not anticipated, there is never a guarantee that they have stopped.

The essay will also present ways in which resilience communities might be build to deal with several hazards, which might arise in such a way that when such hazards arise the effects may not be too great to bear.

According to Hollings (2004) and Hewitt (2004) resilience is important when dealing with hazards fro a number of ways; First, it creates a holistic approach to dealing with hazards on the basis of common notion or scientific suggestions, second, it provides the community with a multi-hazard response approach where the society will always know how to approach a hazardous situation from different perspective and lastly, being a forward looking approach, it can help a society to build response policy for dealing with hazards as and when they occur.

Vulnerability of communities

When a community is faced by disasters, there may either be resilience or vulnerability. In the view of this paper, resilience is the ability of the society to deal with such disasters and to overcome with little or not casually whatsoever, while vulnerability is the situation where the society is resigned to the harm caused by the disasters and the occurrence of the same will often come with devastating effects (Berkes, Colding, Folke 2003). Hazards, which are often a result of disasters, must hence be deal with using systematic or had-oc mechanisms (Islam , Deegan 2008).

According to Backoff (2001), the people who live in stressed conditions are often more predisposed to cope that those in other conditions, and in the view of this report and according to (Jordan 2009), the levels of coping with such conditions may often change due to changes in the intensity of the conditions (Garg et al 2007).

Different communities hence have different ways for dealing with hazards as they arise and while some may have a holistic approach to dealing with hazards for instance, tackling all hazards in the same way, others might have specific approach to dealing with the same (Zuberi 1988). There may hence be a debate as to which approach is the best. The nature of intervention build by a community may hence be viewed as a matter of tradition and culture than as a matter of snap policy.

The Coast of Bangladesh

This area of Bangladesh is considered the most hazardous due to the problems that are posed by environmental hazards to the residents each year (Islam , Deegan 2008). When the cyclone roars, it causes with it death and unimaginable injuries to the people living in these areas . What often happens here is that when the anti-clockwise cyclone starts offshore as a result of low atmospheric pressure, it increases the height of the water to a few meters and with a wind of about 190km/ hour, when such water is pushed to the land, it causes massive destruction (Garg et al 2007).

Official figures showing the history of such disasters in Bangladesh indicates that this cyclone killed 0.5 million in 1970, and it was known as the great cyclone. Also, this coastal area is not strange to tornadoes and between 1877 and 1987, Bangladesh suffered a total of 19 serious cyclones with such tornadoes often carrying properties and depositing them tens of kilometres away and in the course of doing so, leaves masses of people, dead, injured or homeless (Salman 2009).

The government records indicate that in 1987, 1988, 1998, 2004 and 2007, several floods have raved Bangladesh leading to serous deaths. In 2004, 40% of the capital city was affected, the experts have warned that the effects of global warming will become the cause of hazard in the recent times, and that Bangladesh must be ready to face it or deal with it (Salman 2009, Islam, Deegan 2008).

Hazards and Vulnerabilities

Bangladesh faces many problems occasioned by disasters which are both natural and man-made (Zuberi 1988), including flooding, silent but rampant spread of HIV-AIDS, Child Malnutrition and of course poverty.

With relations to flooding, which will form our main subject matter, there are many contributory factors that have made this country and especially the coastal region to be most vulnerable to disasters (Kumar, Reddy 2007), first, as stated earlier, the country ‘sits’ on the path of hot air and cold air meeting points making it vulnerable to cyclones and torrential rains which often cause havoc to the people in the region, Bangladesh is geographically placed on an estuary where the sea curves into the masses of land on either side at the bay of Bengal (appendix 1) and when the moist air from the sea meets with dry air on the land then the results is heavy rainfall, that may be up to several millimetres higher in a day that most places get in a several days (Salman , 2009), secondly, Bangladesh has probably the highest concentration of river estuaries within a small mass of land, than any other country, making it vulnerable to flooding when the rivers break their banks, thirdly, Bangladesh also has one of the highest population densities in the world with a density of 1045 per square kilometre (AsiaInfo 2010). With such a high population density, (Salman 2009, Malone 2009), noted that any occurrence in hazard will definitely have devastating effect on the masses. This explains why whenever there is flooding in this county, the number of deaths will always running to several hundreds if not thousands. Fourth, this country has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and certainly one of the poorest in South East Asia region (Medical News 2008, Jordan 2009), with dowry payment that often runs to more that hundreds of times of average daily wages, being blamed for such levels since families try to save a lot of money in a lifetime and luxury or even mere subsistence is non existence (Mahmud , Amin 2006, Garg et al 2007). With such levels of poverty, it is the view of this report that the government does not also have any resources to provide for its population, indeed if there are no provisions to support the population in normal times, then, such may not be available when hazards strike. Fifth, the levels of ignorance in this area and especially at the coastal regions is extremely high that the population has not ideal whatsoever about issues of climate change, or weather conditions (Martin et al 2006, Berkes 2007), and this has led to late reaction when floods are developing since people go about their businesses as if nothing is happening and by the time they begin to react, it is often very late. According to (Hudson 2008), when a society does not appreciate the issues surrounding their safety, especially when such issues are caused by natural catastrophes, then the results are often catastrophic as such societies are often well placed on the ‘time-bomb’ of prolonged danger and destruction. But, lack of awareness is often related to the levels of poverty in the society and this can hence be attributed as a secondary issue of vulnerability in this region of Bangladesh, since it is a result of general levels of poverty, but not necessarily of ignorance, as the people in the cities are often more informed than those in the rural areas (Martin et al 2006). But (Zuberi 1988), argued that disasters have not subjective effects, and levels of ignorance have never spared or saved a society when disasters are about to strike, however, these views are subjective, since, the nature of destruction and hazards posed by disasters largely depend on the kind of hazards in question (Malone 2009).

Building resilience

In an area where flooding hazard is an issue that has continued to affect the society for decades, resilience is crucial. According to (Berkes 2007) , it is important to build good resilience to ensure that the hazards are reduced and their effected minimised. Resilience, provides a society with ways of avoiding suffering not only for the present but also for the future (Kumar, Reddy 2007). However, this has to be carried out systematically, lest it fails. There is a need to ensure that there is greater acceptability of the resilience mechanism by the society in such a way that programs being given immediately take off with general consensus of the masses (Hudson 2008). It should however be noted that for issues affecting cultural practices, it is important to tread carefully, and ensure that local community heads are put on the forefront of the program. Such activities may include; the local government representatives and religious reasons.

From the information presented above, it can be seen that the coastal region of Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to flood hazard dating back to past decades. One of the noticeable but simple and less effective ways that the people in the coastal regions of Bangladesh have been doing is to build elevated wooden structures (Zhou H., et al 2008). Of course the choice of material has nothing to do with building defences but everything to do with subjection to poverty, since, in the view of this essay, stronger housing, are necessary for creating some level of defences against flooding, but, wooden structures do not provide such resilience (Bennett et al 2010). In this region, people have also adapted to creating sandbags from soil and placing them around the vulnerable areas near the river as a way of having a sustained defence against flooding caused by overflow rivers (Malone 2009) , but these methods are carried out at micro level and there is no way they can be judged as effective. According to (Zhou H., et al 2008), the government must priorities its response mechanism and involve the local community in the process.

This essay holds the view that, in order to create resilience, the following must be considered; first, the government need to start long term empowerment programs where people will be empowered economically, in Bangladesh, the United Nations’ bodies have continued to engage the local population in empowerment programs (Swalheim, Dodman 2008), but this has been short term and aimed at ‘putting food on the table’, rather than creating long term propensity to purchase. There is a need to ensure that self-sustaining economic activities are encouraged and this can be done through the provision of facilities for cottage industry, subsidies, tax holidays and fetching for markets for the products (Garg et al 2007). Cottage industries are preferred than agriculture which the people have for so long relied on, but without tangible success, secondly, there is a need to create a nationwide awareness for cultural change where people will be encouraged to change their attitude towards marriage and dowry (Mahmud , Amin 2006, Garg et al 2007). This will obviously be very hard to achieve, but it can be made to be part of the long-term strategy to making people to spend their money, this will result in increment in the general levels of riches in the region. Third, there is a need to ensure that the population in the coastal region avoids practices that put the environment in jeopardy and instead, engage in such practices as will lead to environmental sustenance, including, responsible disposal of non-biodegradable materials, some of which are used to make the makeshift houses, and afforestation.

The premise here is that, due to higher levels of rainfall every year, it is possible to plant trees in millions in the whole region and especially by the river areas. The trees to be planted should initially be such that have a faster growth pattern, which will grow fast and act as barriers to erosion and windbreakers (Garg et al 2007). This is a sure long-term defence that will transform the region forever, and guarantee life for posterity. When the forest cover is developed, it is possible to embark on agriculture and this will develop the area further as famine will be a thing of the past, and the society, which will have also developed cottage industry will be in a good position not only to provide for their food but also housing.

The view held by this essay is that afforestation and development of cottage industry are crucial in building resilience. On particular importance is afforestation, which will control climate change as Bangladesh still sits on the path of the wrath of climate change. Rampant flooding, which causes with it deaths, sicknesses, destruction of property and other problems will continue to affect this area if nothing is done to develop a long term solution (Bennett et al 2010, Garg et al 2007). Bangladesh will remain on the Bay of Bengal and if irrigation continues in India and silt is deposited in Bangladesh along river Ganges, then nothing can be done from the side of India, then activities for conservation must be undertaken in Bangladesh, and everyone should participate.

Discussion and Conclusion

This essay has managed to highlight the historical issues that have put Bangladesh on the path of flood and hazards. Hazards have had devastating effects on a people and their property and when it is perennial, the effects may lead to a cycle of poverty that may not come to an end.

The need for resilience in the societies is therefore vital and as seen in the case of coastal areas of Bangladesh, geographical disposition of the country makes it very vulnerable and especially the coastal regions which (Garg et al 2007). The people of this country are also very poor and that translates to government’s inability to provide for emergency, leaving the people exposed to floods and cyclones. In this area most people, have erected elevated houses to stay above the flood lines but when such houses are built on cardboards and polythene and even wooded materials, the defence created are very much minimised and instead, lack of sanitation and these materials, cause further problems to the environment (Garg et al 2007). As much as there are issues that can be viewed as being taboos, it is important to ensure that such taboos are gradually but surely dealt with. Most notable was the issue of dowry and issues of HIV – AIDS which are also contributory to disasters in this country.

What needs to be done, is to create a level of higher purchasing power and this can be done through engaging the community in cottage industries than agriculture, which can be encouraged by the government who should get the market for the people and technology too (Swalheim, Dodman 2008), along with this, there may be more acceptance to embark on tree planting activities and if the government sets targets for a certain number of trees to be planted, then this will provide impetus to the people to do the same, but they must be taught about the importance of environmental conservation (Garg et al 2007, Martin et al 2006). Later on, as economic conditions improve, and when the trees have developed, people can then be taken through responsible agricultural training. The government should work with and encourage community-based organisations to mobilise and encourage the local communities to undertake such projects.

By creating an enabling economic environment in the region, most people will be willing to undertake any other conservation programs that will crate long term resilience to the hazards that have continued to affect this region (Swalheim, Dodman 2008, Berkes 2007).

Bangladesh, by virtue of its location, needs long-term resilience mechanism as a country to deal with hazards that are evolving. The need to understand that the problems facing this country will increase as climate change is also becomes more serious. The local population will not, on their own develop resilience unless the government leads with its resources.


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