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Bangladesh Priorities: Climate Adaptation, Golub and Golub

Research by economists Alexander Golub and Elena Strukova Golub examines several solutions that can help tackle climate impacts over the short or long term.


Strategy Takas of benefits per taka spent
Mangrove protection in Sundarbans 3
Early warning systems and shelters 1.8
Polders where flooding exceeds 3 meters 0.8
Polders where flooding is less than 3 meters 1.8
Boost agricultural productivity 4
Resettlement to manufacturing cities 3

One solution looks at protecting and replanting mangroves in coastal regions, which would serve as a natural buffer to cyclones. Mangroves also offer additional benefits, including increased biodiversity, fish habitat, and ecotourism opportunities. It’s very expensive, however, because it involves moving 20 million cubic meters of land each year and planting mangroves on about 40 kilometers of coastline each year. Protecting mangroves in the Sundarbans Reserved Forest would require more than Tk 105 billion (Tk 10,500 crore) over the next 30 years. On balance, mangrove protection and reforestation would provide benefits, for climate protection as well as ecosystem services and tourism, of 2.8 takas per taka spent.

Another proposal is to build early warning systems and shelters where people can take refuge when a cyclone strikes. They would help prevent both human deaths and injuries as well as loss of livestock. Bangladesh would need about 530 shelters in coastal regions, but they are quite expensive per storm given that the most devastating cyclones occur infrequently—with a serious cyclone every three years on average. Each multipurpose shelter would cost about Tk 85 million (Tk 8.5 crore), and each taka spent would do 1.8 takas of good.

Another potential solution is to build polders, tracts of land surrounded by dikes that protect agriculture, housing, and infrastructure from flooding. However, the benefits depend strongly on the likelihood of flooding. If it rises above three meters—a frequent occurrence in some localities—then polders will often be breeched and provide no benefit at all. They are also extremely expensive. Constructing polders where flooding would exceed three meters would cost more than the benefits provided. A better proposal is to focus on the areas where flooding is likely to be less than three meters—which is still enough to kill and destroy. Because lower polders are cheaper and because they won’t fail as much, they will do more good: 1.8 takas of climate benefits for each taka spent.

A more all-encompassing solution would focus on making Bangladesh a wealthier country so that her people can tackle climate shocks better. It is well known that a more developed economy is better suited to cope with many challenges, including adaption to climate change. 

The first of the more general climate proposals aims to increase productivity of labor employed in agriculture through investment in capital and training. The cost would be just over Tk 700,000 per worker over the next two decades and could increase agricultural productivity by 10 percent. In all, each taka spent could provide a return of 3.7 takas over 20 years.

Another option is to move workers from agriculture into more productive jobs by relocating them to second-tier manufacturing cities. Over the next decade, 1 million people who live in areas unprotected by mangroves could be relocated, reducing damage from cyclones. This alone would do just over 1 taka of good for each taka spent. But moving them to manufacturing cities and providing them with training creates potential for the type of productivity growth necessary to improve resilience to climate change, while improving life quality for the individuals. Increasing productivity and removing people from dangerous coastal zones would do 2.6 takas of good for each taka spent.