, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 719-734

Climatic hazards warning process in Bangladesh: Experience of, and lessons from, the 1991 April cyclone

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Abstract

Science and technology cannot control entirely the causes of natural hazards. However, by using multifaceted programs to modify the physical and human use systems, the potential losses from disasters can effectively be minized. Predicting, identifying, monitoring, and forecasting extreme meteorological events are the preliminary actions towards mitigating the cyclone-loss potential of coastal inhabitants, but without the successful dissemination of forecasts and relevant information, and without appropriate responses by the potential victims, the loss potential would probably remain the same. This study examines the process through which warning of the impending disastrous cyclone of April 1991 was received by the local communities and disseminated throughout the coastal regions of Bangladesh. It is found that identification of the threatening condition due to atmospheric disturbance, monitoring of the hazard event, and dissemination of the cyclone warning were each very successful. However, due to a number of socioeconomic and cognitive factors, the reactions and responses of coastal inhabitants to the warning were in general passive, resulting in a colossal loss, both at the individual and national level. The study recommends that the hazard mitigation policies should be integrated with national economic development plans and programs. Specifically, it is suggested that, in order to attain its goals, the cyclone warning system should regard the aspects of human response to warnings as a constituent part and accommodate human dimensions in its operational design.