Cyclone warning in Bangladesh and preparedness effort
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Historically the impact of cyclones on Bangladesh has been catastrophic, sometimes killing hundreds of thousands of people. Usually the country faces the threat of cyclones on a yearly basis but the strength and ferocity of these cyclones are being further escalated with the increased threats of climate change with warming sea water and rising sea levels in the Bay of Bengal. Climate change may increase the frequency and will cause more damage with the rising sea level including inundation of newer areas affecting larger coastal communities for example, Cyclone Roanu in May 2016 mainly impacted six coastal districts of Bangladesh but affected more than 1.3 million people and displaced 200,000 even though the storm was considered to be a low to medium strength. Since the 1970s, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) have been jointly managing a Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) based on a wireless communication and network of over 50,000 volunteers. This programme has been globally acknowledged for its efforts in reducing the number of deaths during the past major cyclone events and is seen as the flagship program of BDRCS. Although early warning messages issued by the BMD and CPP have saved several lives over the decades – which was reflected in the Cyclone Mohasen and tropical Cyclone Mora where CPP and BDRCS volunteers together managed to evacuate thousands of vulnerable people to safe shelter – however, there is still a need of signalling system which can be more relevant for the residing population at the coasts of Bangladesh. The main problems identified on the existing early warning system are that the language it uses to circulate the warning messages is official and is not comprehensible for most of the people. Hence, people don’t pay attention on that since they don’t understand the technical information. In many cases access to early warning message is also a problem as some time the wireless communication is out of order. There were number of times when the warnings were false, so people don’t have full trust on that as well. A study found that the forecasts produced by BMD are not reliable for longer than 12 hours. Another analysis also says that the early warning signals that Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) use is mostly derived from the signals used for maritime and river ports issued by the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD). However, in the past 50 years, Bangladesh has significantly reduced cyclone related deaths. Therefore, it is evident that the CCP is effective to a certain extent but, still can be made to reach a higher potential.