Atmospheric hazards preparedness in Bangladesh: a study of warning, adjustments and recovery from the April 1991 cyclone

Publication Date : 1997-11-01
Author : Haque, C.E.
Countries :
Disaster Management Theme :
Disaster Type : Tropical Cyclone
Document Type : Research Paper
Languange : en
Link :

Abstact :

In probabilistic terms, Bangladesh is prone, to at least one major 'tropical cyclone' every year. This situation is primarily due to the geographical location of Bangladesh in tropical Asia, and to its concave coastline and shallow continental shelf. The devastating impact of such cyclones on humans stems from a combination of intense human occupation of the area, predominance of traditional sociocultural values and religion, the precarious socioeconomic conditions of the majority of the coastal inhabitants, and the lack of a coordinated institutional disaster planning and management strategy. Bangladesh has experienced several catastrophic environmental disasters during the last decade; among these events, the 1991 April cyclone was the most catastrophic in terms of both physical and human dimensions. An initial study was carried out in the coastal regions of Bangladesh less than two weeks after they were hit by the severe cyclone of 29 April 1991. This research examined the process through which warning of the impending disastrous cyclone was received by the local communities and disseminated throughout the coastal regions of Bangladesh. It was found that the identification of the threatening condition due to atmospheric disturbance, the monitoring of the hazard event, and the dissemination of the cyclone warning were each very successful. The present study followed up on the initial research by surveying 267 respondents with an elaborate survey instrument, focusing on the most crucial academic and planning issues identified in the 1991 study. In particular, the nature and characteristics of the cyclone preparedness of the coastal inhabitants were assessed by the study; other factors considered included rural-urban variations, mainland-island differences, the nature and role of previous knowledge, and the disaster experience. The survey results show the variety of indigenous adjustment mechanisms that help to rehabilitate the survivors; also visible are the profound roles played by the social inequality variables and the magnitude of physical vulnerability in influencing the disaster loss and recovery process. The study recommends that hazard mitigation policies should be integrated with national economic development plans and programs. Specifically, it is suggested that the cyclone warning system should incorporate the human response to warnings as its constituent part, and in this way accommodating human dimensions in its operational design.