Natural Disaster Management in Bangladesh

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Usually, floods are vital in the economy and the life of the citizens of Bangladesh. People in both the urban and rural areas of Bangladesh have conformed to the changes caused by regular floods, and have become resilient. In the case of an extreme flood, their resilience is rendered futile since they can’t control the effects of uncontrolled water. Severe floods are due to the monsoon precipitation regime’s unusual behaviors over the GBM river basins. Dynamics compound these river basins in drainage which are majorly controlled by backwater effects and tidal inflows.

Bangladesh bears unique location in the GBM basins. Arguably, the country holds only 7.5 percent of the three river basins. The other remaining portions of the river basins which attributes to the remaining 92.5 percent are situated in Bhutan, India, China, and Nepal (Mirza, 1997). According to Ahmed and Mirza, (2000), the three basins have significantly different precipitation regimes. During a monsoon, very heavy precipitation occurs in the upstream areas resulting into a massive amount of runoff water flowing through Bangladesh through a narrow passage to the Bay of Bengal. Arguably, over bank spilling in Bangladesh is common accordance that causes floods with local precipitation aggravating the situation.

Apart from intense monsoon precipitation, other factors contributing to floods includes: poor drainage caused by the siltation of key distributaries, snow and glacier melt, backwater effect, conditions induced by the El Nino Southern Oscillation, major rivers flood peaks synchronization, and deforestation (Ahmed and Mirza, 2000). In 1987, 1988, and 1998 extreme floods engulfed almost 70 percent of the entire country. During that period, human misery and economic damage were enormous, especially in rural areas. According to Boyce (1990), the floods generated both international and local debates on flood management in Bangladesh. 

In August 2017 the country experienced one of the deadliest river flooding encounter in recent past. The flooding recorded heightened water levels with the country’s “Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief” acknowledging that the flood disaster was the worst in four decades. Various rivers in the country’s northern region burst their banks attributed to the massive local rainfall, as well as increased amount of water from the upstream hills of India. The broken river banks led to the inundation of the river basin regions located in the northern areas of the country affecting over thirty districts.

The country’s National Disaster Response Coordination Centre (NDRCC) issued a report indicating that 114 people were confirmed dead, approximately 297,250 people displaced, and generally 6.9 million people were affected by the tragedy. The calamity destroyed close to 593, 250 houses leaving behind displaced families cluttered in temporary housing. Being a highly flood-prone region, Bangladesh has a flat topography and several regularly flooded rivers used for fishing and irrigating crops.

During March and July 2017 the country had faced flooding episodes increasing people’s vulnerability, therefore making the August 2017 floods particularly more impactful. In Bangladesh, nearly 85 percent of the rural dwellers engage indirectly or directly with agricultural activities. Rice is the citizen’s staple food, and it contributed to approximately 95% of the total food production in the country. During the 2017 monsoon floods, areas such as Rangpur and Dinajpur that generally don’t flood got flooded resulting in severe cropland damages of approximately 650,000 hectares (Yu et al., 2010). Farmers had grown Aman rice that is historically identified as the most productive and flood resistant species. However, its yields tend to drop significantly during floods.

The August 2017 monsoon floods induced crop losses resulting in an unstable price of rice which in turn hurt food security and general livelihood of the victims. Beyond its adverse impacts to agricultural practices, the monsoon floods affected the transport sector with infrastructures such as roads, bridges, and railway lines, being completely damaged and leaving some regions cutoff from disaster management relief. The strong current and rise in water breached embankments and roads sweeping away houses, livestock, and assets that may have been salvaged. The education sector was affected for weeks with at least 2,292 schools being damaged and 13,035 waterborne diseases cases were reported as floods aftermath effects.

Disaster Mitigation

Flood Mitigation efforts by the Bangladesh Government

According to a report published by the NDRCC on 15 August 2017, the government opened 1,392 emergency flood shelters with approximately 282, 479 people taking refuge in them. The affected communities lack emergency medical services, safe drinking water and food, and temporary housing (Whitt, 2017). The government of Bangladesh allocated 6,913 tons of GR rice for consumption by the affected population. Also, GR cash of BDT 24, 525,000 was awarded. Moreover, many victims in different districts were still in extreme need of food, pure drinking water, shelter, and or general relief.   

Flood management by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS)

The BDRCS launched an emergency control program to monitor and collect information about the ongoing floods. Also, they were mandated to alert the National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) and other disaster management bodies of any wanting situations. The Red Crescent Youth (RCY) with the support of the local administration, executive committees, and unit branch offices started distributing dry and cooked food to the victims. The BDRCS deployed water purification plants to provide safe drinking water in Tangail, Sirajganj, Bogra, Jamalpur, Gainbanda, and Kurigram districts.

Hurricane Harvey

On 25 August 2017 Hurricane Harvey a category four storm hit Texas. The hurricane made landfall three different times in six days. On 1 September it reached its peak with one-third of Houston covered by water. The hurricane amounted to $ 180billion damage, arguably damage of this magnitude resulting from a natural disaster has never occurred in U.S history. The storm was so intense such that 70 people lost their lives with other 13 million people getting affected. The damages were uncontrollable although the national hurricane center had warned of the hurricane.

On Aug.25, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had already pre-positioned personnel and supplies in the state before the storm descended on Rockport. Lives were spared since there were first responders from all across the United States (FEMA, 2017). The government, neighbors, certified volunteer organization, nonprofit organizations, strangers, the Cajun Navy, and individuals cruised from cost-to-cost making commendable rescue efforts. President Trump declared the hurricane a disaster allowing various federal agencies to offer a helping hand to the States of Texas. Within days, the number of deployments from federal agencies, the National Guard, and FEMA topped 31,000, and all focused on response and recovery from Harvey. All these efforts bore fruits by minimizing the number of deaths resulting from a hurricane of this great magnitude.

In conclusion, natural disasters are uncontrollable events although their effects can be minimized with great efforts. If Bangladesh were more prepared towards the monsoon floods, minimal death would have been reported. Also, if the residents had been notified before the floods than they would have at least moved their valuables to higher or safer grounds. It would be more convenient if the Bangladesh government would have set aside funds to aid in response and recovery.


Ahmed, A. U. and Mirza, M. M. Q.: (2000), Review of causes and dimensions of floods with particular reference to flood’98: National perspectives. In: Q. K. Ahmad, A. K. A. Chowdhury, S. H. Imam and M. Sarker (eds.), Perspectives on Flood 1998, University Press Ltd., Dhaka.

Boyce, J. K.: 1990, Birth of a megaproject: Political economy of flood control in Bangladesh, Environmental Management 14(4), 419–428.

Mirza, M. M. Q.: (1997), Modelling the Effects of Climate Change on Flooding in Bangladesh, Unpublished PhD. Thesis, International Global Change Institute (IGCI), University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Whitt, H. (2017, September 21). Hurricane Harvey Facts, Damage, Costs and The Story Of One In a Million Helping Hands. Retrieved December 12, 2018, from

FEMA. (2017, September 22). Historic Disaster Response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Retrieved December 12, 2018, from

October 24, 2023
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Disaster Flood

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