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As world leaders meet at a food security summit in Rome this week, Bangladesh is still recovering from
last year’s Cyclone Sidr and subsequent floods. This year, Bangladesh is reporting a 2 to 3 million ton
rice shortage and ordinary Bangladeshis are paying nearly double of what they paid last year for a
kilogram of rice. The country is now facing a food crisis compounded by climate change and
environmental decline.

Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA (VOICEOVER): As world leaders meet at the food security summit in Rome, Bangladesh is still recovering from the aftermath of last year’s Cyclone Sidr. The country, where more than 70 million people live on less than a dollar a day, is now facing a food crisis. This is compounded by extreme weather and environmental decline.

AFSAN CHOWDHURY, ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATE AND FILMMAKER: Over the years, water has become short, water has become polluted, access to water has declined, disasters have increased. The result is the environment is now determining how much food access you will have.

NKWETA: One of the biggest threats to the country’s security is extreme and variable weather associated with climate change. Scientists predict that rising sea levels along the delta’s coast could submerge a third of Bangladesh in the next two decades. Floods and cyclones that once happened every 20 or even a 100 years are now expected every decade, and rising temperatures will mean that rice, wheat, and potato crop yields will fall. This year, Bangladesh is reporting a two to three million ton rice shortage.

DR. AIN-UN-NISHAT, HEAD OF WORLD CONSERVATION UNION, BANGLADESH: We had a major cyclone that carried with it a huge amount of rainfall, causing damage to the standing crop, two floods, as well as drought, and all these elements contributed to this loss in production.

NKWETA: Ordinary Bangladeshis are paying nearly double what they paid last year for a kilogram of rice. Border guards now manage crowded government-subsidized rice shops to keep crowds under control.

CHOWDHURY: As it is, anyone living on a dollar or two dollars a day is in a state of extreme vulnerability. And with price rises, I mean, most of these people are going to spend around 70 percent to 75 percent of their income on food. So the family budget is basically the food budget. This year, the price increase for the basic essential cereal was about 35 [percent], in some cases even more. With 30 to 35 percent increase, they’re outside the budget. Income has also declined because of natural disasters. So the two put together means they are in a situation they probably have not experienced in the last 30 to 40 years. That is how bad the situation is.

NKWETA: Bangladesh is attending the conference in Rome, asking the international community for help in attaining food security. Among the suggestions is a global contingency food reserve to protect the poorest countries when shortages occur. Critics argue that more must be done internally to address the food shortages and hunger.

CHOWDHURY: They are calling for food reserves, they’re calling for a better supply of food, but governments also have ignored agricultural policy, so they are looking at 40 years of ignoring the main issue. It’s not like it happened yesterday; it’s not like the food crisis began yesterday. It began a long time back, when the policies and systems that could help the poor were just not put in place.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and communications development expert based in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Toronto, Canada. Director of the film, "Climate Change - Does Anybody Care if Bangladesh Drowns?