Thursday, March 31, 2011

Climate Disaster: Living the Nightmare

A poor man was telling an unfortunate tale in a pitiful voice on television. He man used to earn lakh taka, had approximately 350 fishermen worked for him until year 2005. But now his fortune has radically changed. Coastal calamities have snatched all that he had. Now he feels like a cursed man forcefully confined into this hell (South west coastline of Bangladesh). This is just a single piece of picture of the pathetic saga of victims of climate change in Bangladesh. Germanwatch, a Germany based non-profit research organization identified Bangladesh as the nation most vulnerable to climate change in 2011. Countries may differ but the wretched scenario remains common in South Asia as climate changed has raised destructive situations through frequent natural calamities. Poverty alleviation has been the highest priority in South Asian countries in previous years. Apparent poverty, high population growth and political turbulence worked against establishing peace in South Asia. But now, climate change is driving South Asian countries towards an intense vulnerability. Therefore, South Asia is considered to be the most disaster prone reign in the world and this problem clearly stand against establishing peace throughout the subcontinent.

In Bangladesh, the impact of climate change is indescribable. Flood, decrease of subsurface water level in summer, rising sea-level, intensification of coastal calamities are the consequences of Climate change. The people of South west coastline are the worst sufferers. Many villages are still locked with saline water since the Cyclone Aila (May 21-22, 2009) passed over the south of Bangladesh (south west, Sunderbans), Kolkata, India. This coastal hazard caused death of many people, increased waterborne diseases, decreased fresh water supply and sanitation and agricultural productivity. In short, the disaster came in the form of severe social and economic shock as most of the  people had no shelter to live with the misery and no income source to start their life again. 

Similar thing has been seen in India. Climate change in Indian Bengal delta (Sunderbans) is threatening fresh water resources and Mangrove ecosystem, and causing displacement of dependent communities. As a result of these natural as well as manmade disasters, the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been hampered, including those on poverty, hunger and illiteracy eradication, reducing child mortality rate and diseases, ensuring employment, improving maternal health and ensuring environmental sustainability. Now the victims are recognized as “Climate refugee” for the adverse consequences.

As a representative of Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative I will suggest short-term and long-term solutions. Short-term solution contains raising funds, providing immediate help with food, medication, warm clothes, shelter and removing saline flood water from locality. Long-term solution includes disaster knowledge management, providing financial help as well as social entrepreneurship and micro financing with low payback rates for reestablishing empowerment and safe shelter, ensuring food security through “salt-resistant rice” developed by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, other technological help, youth’s voluntary participation, and improve collaboration among working agencies and government. Above all, role of awareness is the vital one to combat the rising problem beside these solutions.

IT and Women

Technology can be used to accelerate development and decrease gender gap. But the reality is-uneven distribution of IT within societies and across the globe is resulting in a "digital divide" between those who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women across the world undergo a lower degree of economic security than men and face gender-related constraints. If women are not provided with equal technological opportunities the gender gap will become wider and this condition will push women to the margin of their respected society. To attain the fundamental needs, such as education, health security, economic participation and professional opportunity, and political empowerment all women should be introduced and skilled with the knowledge of IT. It can be helpful for providing distance education and trainings as many women are unable to go to big cities to attain academic degree. Activities of different professional training center and micro finance company can contribute to the widespread of IT to rural or countryside areas. Once the women relate themselves to IT, it will widen their view toward education, social life and status, health security and economy, etc. Even the women of those particular areas can become more aware about their political rights and will be able to learn about the political activities going on around them. In near future, election campaign will be possible through internet in developing countries like Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. Today, in Bangladesh, many women are getting health care and medication service and agricultural solutions through cell phone. Even many women are involved with cell phone booth business to provide telecommunication services. But still, more men are attaining technological knowledge than women. Day by day, professional level of women is rising, but in compare to that gender gap is not decreasing as it is expected. If we want to get the desired result of using IT, we have to consider these gender gaps as huge obstacles before global gender equality and try to close these gaps for the sake of women’s own advancement.