Bangladesh prepares to counter heat as productivity losses hit GDP

Bangladesh prepares to counter heat as productivity losses hit GDP
Bangladesh prepares to counter heat as productivity losses hit GDP

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DHAKA: Climate change officials in Dhaka are studying ways to make the country’s urban areas more habitable in the face of increasing temperatures, as heat-related productivity losses are estimated to cost the Bangladeshi economy over 5 percent of gross domestic product.

Cyclones, floods, and droughts are already regular issues for Bangladesh, but the losses it incurs from drops in productivity range around 32 billion hours of labor annually between 2001-2020, according to a Duke University study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal in mid-January.  

The study showed that heat-related losses in Bangladesh amounted to about 5 percent of GDP in 2000, steadily increasing to 5.5 percent in 2020.

Mirza Shawkat Ali, climate change director at the Department of Environment, told Arab News earlier this week that officials are aware of the study and are working on a set of measures to mitigate the fallout of global warming.

“In recent years, the situation in Bangladesh has been deteriorating due to increases in heat,” he said, adding that as the mercury had risen to 41.2 C in April last year, the Department of Environment and the government-affiliated Institute of Water Modelling decided to assess the causes of urban heat island effects in the country’s largest city, Dhaka, a megapolis with a population of 22 million.

An urban heat island is an area that is significantly warmer than its surroundings due to human activity.

“The project is aimed to find ways the capital city can be made more habitable for dwellers,” Ali said.

“The research will continue for 18-24 months. We will make a set of recommendations on mitigating the impacts of climate warming.”

He added that research is scheduled to start within the next three months, but adaptation strategies, climate researchers say, are unlikely to become long-term solutions.

Prof. Atiq Rahman said the country needed to decrease population density in its urban areas.

“To ease the population density, we need to decentralize the facilities up to the grassroots level so that people don’t need to gather in the urban areas,” he said.

“Dhaka became overburdened as people from across the country rushed here for better education, health and working facilities.”

Dr. Luke Parsons, the climate researcher who led the Duke University research on heat-related labor losses, told Arab News preventing productivity losses needed to be addressed globally.  

“Many laborers working in tropical and subtropical locations, like Bangladesh, are living in areas that are already too hot and humid in the afternoon to work comfortably and safely,” he said.

“Slowing global warming is one of the most important ways to decrease potential future labor losses. As the last 40 years of meteorological observations have shown us, waiting to slow warming costs global labor and the economy.”


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