November 22nd, 2009

So I’m back in the UK. News here is dominated by the torrential rain and flooding in Cumbria. One police officer has lost his life and hundreds are having to live in emergency accommodation. When something like this happens close to home you can’t help feeling sorry for the people involved. Your heart and mind is with the people who are having such a terrible time.

On the TV last night were pictures of Gordon Brown visiting the area. Giving £1million in assistance. Some people were arguing that more could have been done to prevent the flooding, Others argues that it was so exceptional that to take prevention measures would not be cost effective, which leads to the question what price do you put on lives and people’s security?

Reflecting on this with the Bangladesh visit behind me leads to a few thoughts. In the places I have visited tens of thousands of people are faced with moving every year as the floods come and their riverbank erodes. I have met only a handful, but in all more than a million people altogether are directly affected by river bank erosion. What price would we put on their lives and security, and why should it be less than people living in Cumbria?

For the people in Bangladesh there is no safety net. There are some food handouts when the floods come, but there is no certainty that they will reach everyone. There is no insurance – the people who we met could not possibly afford anything like this. And there is no security – people in Bangladesh simply do not know whether they, and their families will survive the next flood, whether they will have a home to go back to or any belongings. Of course this doesn’t in any way mean that the people of Cumbria have it easy, but it’s a very sobering reflection.

And one more though before signing off. Some people have been linking the flood in Cumbria to climate change. It is generally accepted that the floods in Bangladesh are getting worse and more frequent as a result of climate change. Next month world leaders gather in Copenhagen to try and reach a new climate change deal, I can only hope that for the sake of the people I have met on this visit an effective and ambitious deal is reached, so that maybe their problems will become slightly less each year, instead of slightly greater!

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