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Bangladesh: Building Resilience to Climate Change

October 9, 2016


Bangladesh is located at the tail end of the fragile delta formed by the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers and more exposed to tropical cyclones than any other country. It also experiences about two-fifths of the world’s storm surges every year.

According to the 2015 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Bangladesh’s economy is more at risk to climate change than any country. With a per capita gross domestic product, or GDP, of about $1,220, the economic losses in Bangladesh over the past 40 years were at an estimated $12 billion, depressing GDP annually by 0.5 to 1 percent. Especially devastating storms that come along every few years have an outsized impact – such as the 2007 cyclone Sidr, which wrought an estimated $1.7 billion in damages, or about 2.6 percent of the GDP on top of $1.1 billion losses due to monsoon flooding in the previous 12 months. In May 2009, 3.9 million Bangladeshis directly suffered from the impact of Cyclone Aila, which caused an estimated $270 million in asset damage.

Due to the effects of climate change, an increase in the frequency and severity of cyclones and other natural disasters is likely, making it essential for Bangladesh to adapt to increased uncertainty and be prepared to ride out even the worst storms. The Multipurpose Disaster Shelter Project (MDSP) will benefit nearly 14 million coastal people who are more vulnerable to natural disasters.


Two-thirds of the country is less than five meters above sea level, and floods increasingly inundate homes, destroy farm production, close businesses, and shut down public infrastructure. Erosion leads to an annual loss of about 10,000 hectares of land and weakens natural coastal defenses and aquatic ecosystems.

Fresh water has become scarcer in in Bangladesh’s drought-prone northwest and in southwest coastal areas where about 2.5 million profoundly poor residents regularly suffer from shortages of drinking water and water for irrigation. Further, their coastal aquatic ecosystems have been severely compromised.

Salt water intrusion from sea level rise in low-lying plains has intensified the risk of food insecurity, the disappearance of employment opportunities for agricultural workers, and the spread of water-related diseases.

" While the last cyclone washed away everything I built up for my family, I am hoping that the BRRI 47 [salt-tolerant rice] will help us get back on our feet. The green saplings you see in front of you will double our harvest and our income. And hopefully the green will double our happiness as well.  "

Md. Harun Ur Rashid

Chairman of the Village Farming Society, Barguna.


The Emergency Cyclone Recovery and Restoration Project (ECRRP) supports the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) efforts to facilitate recovery from the damage to livelihoods and infrastructure caused by Cyclone Sidr and to build long-term preparedness through strengthened disaster risk reduction and management.

Addressing climate change is a national priority. Bangladesh is recognized internationally for its cutting-edge achievements in addressing climate change. Bangladesh has invested more than $10 billion in climate change actions – enhancing the capacity of communities to increase their resilience, increasing the capacity of government agencies to respond to emergencies, strengthening river embankments and coastal polders (low-lying tracts of lands vulnerable to flooding), building emergency cyclone shelters and resilient homes, adapting rural households’ farming systems, reducing saline water intrusion, especially in areas dependent upon agriculture, and implementing early warning and emergency management systems.

Despite the considerable progress that the Government of Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi people have made, they face continuous challenges associated with climate change. The World Bank Group’s Climate Change Action Plan reconfirms  its commitment to further increase the climate-related share of its portfolio. Already in Fiscal Years 2011 to 2015, the share of activities with climate co-benefits was at 31 percent of total IDA financing. And addressing climate change is one of the three primary focus areas in the Country Partnership Framework for Fiscal Years 2016 to 2020.

Bank funding also has supported projects in some of the poorest regions to build desalinization plants and solar-powered irrigation and solar home systems, raise the plinths of homes to protect from future flooding, and help identify livelihoods largely insulated from frequent natural disasters.

Bank financing has also enabled research on the impact of climate-sensitive diseases and the dynamics of urban flooding in the Dhaka area. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation and the 2030 Water Resources Group have also collaborated on an investment strategy for the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, a long-term investment program to spur adaptive management of the Bangladesh Delta.

" The changing climate is making lives more difficult for vulnerable communities such as mine. We shall need to work harder to adapt. But whenever I hear of a new shelter being built or an existing one being repaired, I know that there is still hope for our villages and for our families. "

Hasina Begum

Headmistress of Paschim Napitkhali Primary School in Barguna


The Coastal Embankment Improvement Project - Phase I (CEIP-I) aims to upgrade Bangladesh’s embankment system by increasing the area protected in polders from tidal flooding and frequent storm surges.

Results – Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change

Bank-supported initiatives have resulted in a range of outcomes, such as:

  • Build 320 solar irrigation pumps benefiting 8,000 farmers
  • Support 17,500-hectare block plantations and 2,000-kilometer strip plantations from flooding and saline intrusion
  • Provide basic adaptive services for 40,000 families
  • Offer trainings on alternative livelihoods for 6,000 poor households in 200 communities
  • Construct 224 new cyclone shelters and repair 387 kilometers of embankment
  •  Publish research analyzing impact of climate change in urban areas.
  • Provide 3.95 million remote households and rural shops with solar home systems, which increased access to electricity Install seven mini-grids to provide continuous electricity to 2,000 rural businesses and shops
  • Distribute clean, energy-efficient cook stoves to 750,000 rural women
  •  Improve the availability of energy through electricity transfers in the Haripur, Siddhirganj and Narayanganj regions

Towards the Future: Given the level of climate uncertainty, the Bank will continue to emphasize measures that simultaneously deliver climate resilience and development benefits.