I just read a small article from the World Bank which notes that Bangladesh is the most dangerous place in the world to live, in terms of natural disasters. On average, there are 6.14 natural disasters per year in Bangladesh, with Afghanistan a poor second with only 1.34 (though I am sure the Taliban and Nato can make life a little more exciting there if anyone is feeling a little humdrum). This is a little astounding, and more than a little worrying for those in the disaster basin that is the 'desh.
The range of disasters that Bangladesh can and does face are very numerous. Only last week was I awoken in the early hours to be informed of a Tsunami warning, though it proved to be a false alarm. Quick onset disasters are pretty regular - tsunamis are accompanied by earthquakes, landslides, flash flooding, cyclones, tornadoes and coastal flooding. This year, we have had a landslide in Chittagong which killed around 150 people, two cyclones that made landfall, a tornado in the south-west and many small earthquakes. In general, Bangladesh has not the resources to cope with these problems and as such many more people die than would in other places.
Slow-onset events compliment the quick disasters. River flooding is the main one, with this year's floods reaching the highest levels in 30 years and displacing millions. Round two of this episode kicked in late last week. Famine is also a regular event, as are droughts and insect infestations, all leading to crop losses and deaths.
Combined, these events do much to undermine Bangladesh's efforts to bring sustainable and long-lasting development, and this before the social issues of rising population, increased social tension and extreme poverty are added into the mix. All in all, it is easy to see why Bangladesh faces such challenges.
However, it also makes even more ridiculous the idea that is being floated around Bangladeshi policy circles at the moment, that what the country really needs is a nuclear power station! I would rather that Iran had nuclear power than Bangladesh - it would be in safer hands. In light of the 6.14 natural disasters a year (6 times the next highest!), is it really safe to build such things here?
Another article (on water policy and development in Bangladesh) can be read here