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Controversy Sea Level Rise Issue and Disaster Management Planning


Now a day, climate change is hotcake all over the world and it also true for our country, especially sea level rise (SLR) issue. Scientists believe and also try to universally establish to all that due to sea level rise coastal zone of Bangladesh has already experienced noticeable impacts especially in terms of area of inundation and erosion, saline intrusion, loss of soil and land, loss of crop production in addition to migration of people from vulnerable areas. Hossain (2010) mentioned, about 10% of Bangladesh is hardly 1m above the mean sea level and one-third is under tidal excursions and it will affect 13 million people in Bangladesh, with 16% of national rice production lost. The SLR will inflict its impacts on Bangladesh in the coastal area and through the coastal area, on the whole of Bangladesh. About 2,500, 8,000 and 14,000 km2 of land (with a corresponding percentage of 2%, 5% and 10% with respect to the total land area of the country) will be lost due to SLR of 0.1m, 0.3m and 1.0m respectively (Hossain, 2010).

But reality is that during the past century, sea level has arisen by around 18 cm, or on an average of 1-2.5mm/year (Warrick et al.1996). So, if we consider the highest sea level rise it will take 4000 year to raise sea level up to 1 meter. Even counter school of SLR argues that Bangladesh is the largest Deltaic plain of the world is blessed with silt carried by the three mighty rivers the Padma, the Meghna and the Jamuna.

Now the problem lies here, controversy issue of SLR directly affect disaster management planning. It is widely accepted that hazards are in part socially constructed by people’s perceptions and their experiences. UNISDR (2009) argues a disaster is a function of the risk process. It results from the combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerability and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk. So controversy issues like sea level rise issue must effects on its disaster management planning.

Geographical Location and Population of Bangladesh
Bangladesh is situated at the north eastern region of South Asia and is bounded by India to the west, north and north1east and by Myanmar to the south east and the Bay of Bengal to the south. It has an area of 147,570 km2 and a population of about 129.6 million, giving a population density of 874 per km2. The country generally enjoys a sub-tropical monsoon climate. The country has a very flat and low topography except in the northeast and southeast regions (Hossain, 2010).He also mentioned the country has two contrasting environments to the north and the south. It has the Himalayas and the Khasia1Jaintia hills to the north and the Bay of Bengal and the northern Indian Ocean to the south. Both of these settings control modify and regulate the weather and climate of the country and the region. The geographical location and geo1morphological conditions of Bangladesh have made the country one of the most vulnerable ones to disasters in the world.

Bangladesh is broad deltic plain largely formed by the Gangas, The Brahmaputra and the Meghna. The topography is extremely flat and most of the elevations are less than 10 m meters above sea level. Rashid (1991) mentioned Most of the country is low-lying land comprising mainly the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Floodplains occupy 80% of the country. Mean elevations range from less than 1 meter on tidal floodplains, 1 to 3 meters on the Main River and estuarine floodplains, and up to 6 meters in the Sylhet basin in the north-east only in the extreme northwest are elevations greater than 30 meters above the mean sea level. The northeast and southeast portions of the country are hilly, with some tertiary hills over 1000 meters above mean sea level (Huq and Asaduzzaman 1999).

With a population of over 133 million people in a small area and a population density of more than 1,209 persons per km2, and 75% of the population lives in rural areas, Bangladesh is a very densely populated country (World Bank, 2002). Higher population density increases vulnerability to climate change because more people are exposed to risk and opportunities for migration within a country are limited (Agrawala, 2003).

Sea Level Rise
Since 1993 thermal expansion of the oceans has contributed about 57 percent of the sum of the estimated individual contributions to the sea level rise, with decreases in glaciers and ice caps contributing about 28 percent and losses from the polar ice sheets contributing the remainder (Nicholls, n.d.).

Coastal scientists and managers are increasingly being called upon to assess the physical, economic, and societal impacts of sea-level rise due to climate change, and hence investigate appropriate response strategies. With unmitigated emissions, it is assumed sea level will be about 40 cm higher than today by the 2080s, and this is estimated to increase the annual number of people flooded from 13 million to 94 million(Nicholls, n.d.). He also mentioned 60% of this increase will occur in southern Asia (along coasts from Pakistan, through India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to Burma), and 20% will occur in South East Asia (from Thailand to Vietnam including Indonesia and the Philippines). Again as per IPCC in sea level are consisted with global warming. Global average sea levels rose at an average 1.8(1.3 to 2.3) mm per year over 1961 to 2003. Science 1993 thermal expansion of the oceans has contributed about 57% of the sum of the estimates individual contribution to the sea level rise issues.

Global warming causes sea level to rise by thermal expansion of the ocean waters and the melting of land-based ice, producing a range of impacts. In this study, we examine and compare the impacts of global mean sea-level rise due to unmitigated emissions, emissions leading to stabilization at 750 ppm and 550 ppm CO2. By the 2080s, the Hadley Centre predictions show a 41 cm global rise (compared to the level for 1961–90) in the case of unmitigated emissions, while the 750 ppm and 550 ppm stabilization scenarios show rises of 30 cm and 27 cm, respectively. By the 2230s, even though CO2 concentrations have stabilized, sea level will be higher by 94 cm and 75 cm, respectively, and still rising, due to its long adjustment time. This analysis considers, firstly, the increased risk of coastal flooding due to storm surges to the 2080s and, secondly, increased losses of coastal wetlands to the 2230s(Nicholls, n.d.).

Counter School of Sea Level Rise
The counter school of sea rise level argues that there is flaw in method in sea level measurement and also mentioned the rising of sea level is not so faster rate that it will really be a vulnerable environmental concern. Even the sea level rise is a result of global warming; it is possible to reduce global warming by reducing Carbon emission. Nicholls (n.d.).There is scope of flood impacts of sea-level rise are reduced by the emissions scenarios leading to stabilization of CO2; by the 2080s, the annual number of people flooded is estimated to be 34 million under the 750 ppm scenario and 19 million under the 550 ppm scenario. Again, most of those flooded will be in southern and South East Asia. In below quoted key points from the interview of Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner (2006) which established strong argument against sea level rise:

•To find the essence of what is going on, was indeed rising, from, let us say, 1850 to 1930-40. And that rise had a rate in the order of 1 millimeter per year.Not more. 1.1 is the exact fgure. And we can check that, because Holland is a subsiding area; it has been subsiding for many millions of years; and Sweden, after the last Ice Age, was uplifted.
•There’s another way of checking it, because if the radius of the Earth increases, because sea level is rising, then immediately the Earth’s rate of rotation would slow down.
•Tide gauge is an important factor to measure the sea level. Tide gauging is very complicated; it gives different answers depend on the location of location of measuring station in the world. For an example, PCC  [Intergovernmental  Panel  on Climate Change], choose Hong Kong, which has six tide  gauges,  and  they  choose  the  record  of one, which gives 2.3 mm per year rise of sea level.  Every geologist knows that is a subsiding area.  It’s the compaction of sediment; it is the only record which one shouldn’t use. If the figure correct then Holland would not be subsiding, it would be uplifting.
•So all this talk that sea level is rising, this stems from the computer modeling, not from observations.
•Mörner had been the expert reviewer for the IPCC, both in 2000 and 2006. The frst time he read it, He was exceptionally surprised.First of all, it had 22 authors, but none  of  them none were sea-level specialists.
•Another famous place is the Tuvalu Islands, which are supposed to soon disappear because they’ve put out too much carbon dioxide.But real observation shows there is no such symptom to disappear Tuvalu Islands. Same observation is true for the island Maldivs.
•The IPCC get these small island nations so worked up about worrying that they’re going to be flooded tomorrow because they get support, they get money, so their idea is to attract money from the industrial countries.
•And like this State of Fear, by Michael Crichton, when he talks about ice. It also a controversy issue. Some Alpine glaciers are melting, others are advancing. Antarctic ice is certainly not melting; all the Antarctic records show expansion of ice. Greenland is the dark horse here for sure; the Arctic may be melting, but it doesn’t matter, because they’re already floating.
•Shoreline erosion is opposed to sea-level rise.If you have a coast, with some stability of the sea level, the waves make a kind of equilibrium profile what they are transporting into the sea and what they are transporting onshore. If the sea rises a little, yes, it attacks, but the attack is not so vigorous.On the other hand, if the sea goes down, it is eating away at the old equilibrium level. There is a much larger redistribution of sand.

Disaster Management Planning
Disaster Risk Management (DRM) includes administrative decisions and operational activities that involve Prevention, Mitigation, Awareness, Preparedness, Response, Recovery, and Rehabilitation. DRM involves all levels of government decision makers, NGOs and CBOs play vital role in the process. And in this case communities themselves are first responders. DRM also possible to define as the systematic process of using even administrative decisions, organization, operational skills and capacities to implement policies, strategies and coping capacities of the society and communities to lessen the impacts of natural hazards and related environmental and technological disasters.

Again, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is the conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development.

It is very much essential both the case of DRM and DRR provide appropriate information for properly prepare disaster management plan. The controversy issues of seal level rise issues creates obstacle to prepare the disaster management plan. Even it create controversy to take appropriate administrative decisions, organization, operational skills and capacities to implement also appropriate policies, strategies and coping capacities of the society and communities to the probable impact of sea level rise or not.

Bangladesh is known as disaster prone country because it is introduced with severe natural calamities namely flood, cyclone, tornado, storm surges, river bank erosion, rainfall (heavy rain fall or lack of rain fall), arsenic contamination, cold wave, land sliding, water logging etc. each year. Due to these natural hazards, Bangladesh loses huge amount of resources, infrastructures, living being etc. and the setting of ecosystem and environments are also disrupted. Now a day sea level raise is a multi level hazard, is a new threat to Bangladesh. So, it is an urgency to conduct appropriate research and take proper policy measurement and prepare appropriate disaster management plan to cope up with this multi level natural hazard.

Agrawala, S. et al.2003. Development and Climate Change in Bangladesh: Focus on Coastal Flooding and the Sundarbans, URL: http www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/46/55/21055658.pdf, accessed on 1 December 2011.
Hoorn,M.V.2010.Climate Change and Conflict in Bangladesh,URL:http://geography2.ruhosting.nl/masterthesis/scripties/HoornMatthijsvander.pdf, accessed on 1 December 2011.
Hossain, M.A. 2010. ‘Global Warming induced Sea Level Rise on Soil, Land and Crop Production, Loss in Bangladesh’ Paper Presented in 2010 19thWorld Congress of Soil Science on “Soil Solutions for a Changing World”, in Brisbane, Australia. 1-6 August.
Huq, S. and Asaduzzaman, M. 1999. Overview. In Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change for Bangladesh, S. Huq, Z. Karim, M. Asaduzzaman, and F. Mahtab (eds.) Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers,pp. 1-11.
Mörner, N.A. 2006. Interview: Claim that Sea level raise is Total Fraud, URL: http://www.climatechangefacts.info/ClimateChangeDocuments/NilsAxelMornerinterview.pdf, accessed on 9 January 2012.
Nicholls, R. (n.d.). Sea level Rise and Bangladesh, http www.bdix.net/sdnbd_org/world_env_day/2002/current_issues/sea_label_rise/middlesex-univ.htm, accessed on December1, 2011.
Rashid, H.E., 1991, “Geography of Bangladesh” (Second Revised Edition), Dhaka, Bangladesh: The University Press Ltd.,
World Bank, 2002. “World Development Indicators”, Washington, DC:The World Bank,
Warrick et al.1996. Past and Future Sea Level Rise, URL: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/1996/WHO_EHG_96.7_%28chp7%29.pdf, accessed on 1December 2011.


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