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Bangladesh - November 22, 2023

Dhaka ranked second least resilient city in the world

Staff Correspondent: Dhaka has ranked as the second least resilient city in the world, according to a report released by The Economist.
In the report titled “Resilient Cities Index, A global benchmark of urban risk, response and recovery”, Dhaka was ranked according to four categories – Critical infrastructure, Environment, Socio-Institutional and Economic.
The report, which ranked 25 cities across the world, painted a gloomy picture of the world ravaged by devastated climate challenges in the form of extreme weather events – hurricanes to flooding, wildfires and heatwaves.
Dhaka came in 24th, with Lagos coming in last.
New York was placed first, making it the most resilient city, followed by Los Angeles, London and Singapore.
Bangkok and New Delhi came in at 20th and 21st.
The report, however, mentions that the findings did not take into account emerging risks such as cyber-attacks, which are becoming both more prevalent and dangerous as technological dependance deepens.
Although Dhaka’s performance in some metrics were among the lowest, it did excel in others.
Below is a breakdown of the findings.
Critical infrastructure
Highly-populated emerging economic cities like Dhaka have the most significant challenges in maintaining their infrastructure in the next 50 to 100 years, the report said.
The need to deliver functional infrastructure to manage and cushion their growth is critical in facing the challenges of the future.
The report highlighted that high levels of corruption caused certain cities to score poorly in this aspect.
Urban Mobility is a key aspect of this.
This is an area where Dhaka has shown progress, with the opening of the elevated expressway and the first of multiple lines for the Metrorail.
These facilities aid in reducing journey times and congestion as well as improving overall air quality, an important factor for Dhaka as the city consistently ranks among the top five cities with the worst air quality in the world.
Scored on a five point scale between zero and five, Dhaka ranks the worst at zero along with Mexico City, in the Urban Mobility category.
Another major issue Dhaka is grappling with is energy poverty and how the lack of maintenance in the electrical grids are exacerbating the problem, the report said.
Nearly 775 million people live without electricity according to the International Energy Agency.
The report highlights how Dhaka is the second worst in this metric with an estimated 22.5 million people who suffer from frequent to severe power outages, putting Bangladesh’s capital ahead of Cape Town, Jakarta, Lagos and Mexico city, but behind New Delhi.
To put this in context, Dhaka city’s population is estimated to be a little above 23 million.
It’s hard to deny the world is getting hotter; the past few winters in Dhaka have been much milder than in the past, with the summers inevitably bringing dangerous heat waves that can bring the city to a standstill.
Developing strategies to handle the growing heat has become a rising concern in all the cities mentioned in the report, with new government positions such as “Chief Heat Officers” or CHOs appearing for the sole purpose of coordinating emergency responses to heat waves and plan measures for future incidents.
Just this past May, Bushra Afreen, daughter of Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam, was appointed Bangladesh’s first CHO, the first such position in Asia.
As CHO, she is responsible for unifying North Dhaka’s city-wide planning and response to extreme heat, improving awareness of the risks increased heat brings and initiating new work that reduces the risks and impacts it brings to the city, but especially for its most vulnerable people.
Dhaka is also at high risk of riverine flooding which can pose long term health risks.
Stagnant bodies of water, for example, can provide breeding grounds for waterborne and vector-borne diseases.
In the index, most lower-income cities performed poorly in terms of riverine flood risk, especially Dhaka and Jakarta.
“Today, infrastructure projects must incorporate nature-based solutions, such as green roofs and natural drainage systems that can enhance resilience and sustainability by improving water management, reducing flooding and providing additional ecosystem services,” says Mr Thiru, executive director of Infrastructure Asia, in the report.
Urban resilience is strongly influenced by social and institutional dynamics.
These factors are measured by indicators such as digital government platforms, crime and safety, income inequality, and social protection.
These aspects affect how well societies can withstand and recover from disasters.
Dhaka does well in integrating the vulnerable for the collective wellbeing of society, scoring among the highest with two points.
However, when it comes to having a culture that is prepared to act in the face of disaster, Dhaka scored low, only ahead of Istanbul, Lagos, Bangkok and Cairo.
A city’s ability to recover from disaster is reliant on its exposure to global markets and the stability of the local economy to redirect financing to rebuilding.
No economy is an island – the recent macroeconomic shocks in the past few years such as the pandemic, geopolitical tensions and rising energy costs have shown which cities can recover faster, and why they can.
When it comes to incentivising innovation, Dhaka doesn’t even rank in the top 15 cities studied.
However, a surprising fact that has come from this study is that Dhaka actually ranks quite highly due to Bangladesh having an educated workforce, an important factor in determining a city’s resilience.
Bangladesh ranks 9th on the list, with an impressive 79.6% of its working age population having some form of advanced education.
The report concludes that a city resilient enough prepare for shocks and recover in the aftermath must take certain steps – empowering their community, improving social cohesion, investing in early warning systems, incentivising preparedness, tracking progress made in improving their systems and finally supporting innovation and finding solutions for the problems of the future.

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