PERVASIVE corruption and irregularities in climate change mitigation projects, as a recent Transparency International Bangladesh report shows, stands as a huge barrier in actualising intended project benefits. The report, made public on Thursday, says that about 14–76 per cent of funds allocated for climate projects were embezzled by people involved in project implementation or was lost because of other irregularities. The report focused on projects related to the construction, renovation and maintenance of coastal infrastructure after five major natural disasters — cyclone Sidr in 2007, Aila in 2009, Roanu in 2016, Amphan in 2020 and flooding in 2019. The report says that there are specific allegations of financial losses up to 76 per cent of funds in some projects caused by corruption and that the volume of loss from natural disasters marked a considerable increase because of irregularities. Corruption in the construction of disaster-resilient infrastructure such as dams, roads and shelters, coupled with an absence of coordination and preparedness, made the disaster situation bad for tens of thousands of people in coastal districts.
Corruption and irregularities ranging from the award of construction work to people with political clout to the poor and half-done construction of the infrastructure have plagued most projects. In many cases, partially implemented projects were completed in paper and in others, funds were embezzled by showing additional costs. Other irregularities, as the report finds, include the use of shelters for personal purposes, politically-motivated selection of the beneficiaries of relief materials and the misappropriation of vehicles and equipment bought with project money. All this has left people in the coastal region, which stands at the forefront of the emerging climate chaos, in a vulnerable condition. An increase in the sea-level and salinity in coastal plain land is said to have negatively affected lives and livelihood of people in the region for years. Studies show that salinity has increased by about 26 per cent in 35 years, spreading into non-coastal areas. When widespread corruption and irregularities largely weaken the intended effect of mitigation projects, fresh development projects disregarding climate and environment issues are reported to have added to climate-related risks.
Although Bangladesh is one of the first countries to constitute a dedicated fund for climate change mitigation, corruption and irregularities keep gnawing at intended benefits of the programmes. The government must, therefore, look into the allegations of corruption and irregularities and bring the people involved in corruption to justice. The government must also be sincere in implementing ongoing and future projects that can save lives of many and significantly arrest the negative impact of climate change. The government must not also take any development project that can adversely impact the environment and expedite the impact of climate change.
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