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Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention

Spotlight figure 1 Mortality from floods and storms in Bangladesh 30

300,317

138,987

28

26

24

22

People killed (thousands)

20

18

16

14

12

10

8

6

4

2

19

7 19 0 7 19 2 7 19 4 7 19 6 7 19 8 8 19 0 8 19 2 8 19 4 8 19 6 8 19 8 9 19 0 9 19 2 9 19 4 9 19 6 9 20 8 0 20 0 0 20 2 0 20 4 0 20 6 08

0 Floods Source: World Bank staff.

Storms

in the Water Development Board. The proposals languished because donors (who became important after Bangladesh’s independence) were split over their choice. The World Bank financed the construction of some embankments, but its 1971 Land and Water Study urged small scale developments, especially low lift pumps to tap ground water for irrigation in the dry season that allowed more of the high-yielding short-stem rice varieties to grow. The government restricted the use of tube wells when the water table was found to be falling. Over 5,700 kilometers of embankments (3,400 in coastal areas), 1,700 flood control/ regulating structures, and 4,300 kilometers of drainage canals were built over 30 years. The experience was sobering. Embankments merely redirect the water flow and are effective only when they are well located, designed, constructed, and maintained—but many were not. The resulting breaches rendered the entire embankment ineffective, and some farmers, seeking to protect their crops and fields, also created some breaches intentionally. The farmers often were neither consulted when the embankments were built nor compensated when their more vulnerable fields flooded. Embankments act as dams impeding the flood waters from draining rapidly, and protracted immersion increases damage to standing crops. Local authorities had also built some embankments, ignoring the larger delta’s hydrology. But rivers change course, often with little warning, as silt scours their banks. During the 1966 flood season, the river moved 1,500 meters (almost 1 mile) laterally downstream from Faridpur, digging a new 30-meter-deep channel. This shifting river course confounds land ownership and increases fatalities from floods when farmers stay put to preserve their land claims.

Profile for World Bank Group Publications

Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention  

Earthquakes, droughts, floods, and storms are natural hazards, but unnatural disasters are the deaths and damages that result from human act...

Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention  

Earthquakes, droughts, floods, and storms are natural hazards, but unnatural disasters are the deaths and damages that result from human act...

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