As another tropical storm hit the deltas of the Bengal region, we were reminded of the unstoppable force of nature. While mainland India avoided a direct hit, several of its districts in West Bengal were in the core radius of Yaas. There were casualties in Bangladesh as well, where at least two people died, and roads and infrastructure worth crores were damaged along the coastal region.
Climate change has exacerbated the frequency and intensity of these tropical storms. Bangladesh and India should look at collaborative and sustainable measures to brace such difficulties.
Cyclone Yaas hit the eastern coast of India, and more than two million people were evacuated. Southern parts of Bangladesh experienced significant disruption. The cyclone's force has decimated the Jhau gardens of Cox's Bazar and the mangroves of Sundarban. The char-filled division of Barisal experienced massive destruction as well, particularly in the district of Bhola and Patuakhali, where 727.81 km of rural roads, including three bridges and three culverts, were affected.
Destruction in Khulna and the Sundarbans have experts concerned over their
reduced capacity to endure future disasters. In 2017, India hosted the first Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Disaster Management Exercise. Considering the frequency of cyclones, such initiatives between Bangladesh and India should reaffirm their environmental and climate diplomacy. BIMSTEC region comprises 22% of the global population, and is exposed to an ever-increasing threat from natural disasters. Whether it is the recurrent floods or landslides, regular disasters in the sub-region damage lives, livelihoods and assets, often leading to mass displacement and migration across borders.
Bangladesh and India should work towards a joint, proactive, holistic policy that encompasses disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation and risk reduction. Both the states need to collectively devise a comprehensive risk reduction action plan. They should work towards a common outcome through institutionalizing partnerships across all levels of governance.
Bangladesh and India should collectively address knowledge gaps, while research task forces should be set up on various climate change and environmental risks in the region. This can help develop a shared understanding of the threats, create standards for emergency management, and develop cost-effective solutions. Both India and Bangladesh have adequate meteorological departments capable of predicting the formation, pathway, and end of such tropical storms.
Additionally, empowerment of conservation projects and environmental protection groups is necessary to rejuvenate the Sundarbans, which in many ways is the first line of defence against such natural disasters.